Singapore steps up guard against Ebola virus

On guard: A photo taken at Conakry's airport in Guinea shows protection, detection and health-care equipment set up to fight the spread of the Ebola virus. Airports and countries around the world are stepping up their vigilance.
PHOTO: Singapore steps up guard against Ebola virus

SINGAPORE - Singapore is taking more measures to guard against the spread of Ebola, amid the worst-ever outbreak of the deadly disease.

Nationals of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria - where most cases have occurred will be issued individual health advisories when they come through Singapore's immigration checkpoints, said the Health Ministry yesterday.

The advisory notes that if travellers become unwell with Ebola symptoms such as sudden high fever, stomach pains, diarrhoea, vomiting, rash or bleeding within three weeks of being in Ebola-bit areas of West Africa, they should see a doctor early at any clinic in Singapore. They are also reminded to inform the doctor of where they had been.

The ministry will also put up similar health advisory posters at Changi Airport's arrival halls.

The MOH maintained, however, that the disease poses a low public health risk to Singapore.

This is because it is transmitted only if there is direct contact with an infected person's bodily fluids. The current outbreak is also still contained within West Africa, and Singapore has no direct flights to and from affected areas.

Singapore's extra measures come after the United States issued its highest-level alert for Ebola yesterday. The death toll from the disease is creeping close to 1,000, with 45 deaths between last Saturday and Monday.

"In our globalised world, we can never rule out the possibility of an imported case, despite the low risk of spread to Singapore," said the ministry in a statement.

So local hospitals, clinics and doctors have been told to stay vigilant. Suspected cases will be evaluated at hospitals' emergency departments for medical treatment and, as a precaution, isolated.

Measures are also in place to carry out contact tracing and quarantine all close contacts, should there be a case here.

Some Singapore travel agencies have advised those on their South African tours to buy travel insurance and register with Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Singapore companies with business dealings in Africa also remain vigilant. For instance, commodities company Olam, which has operations in Nigeria, has issued health advisories to its employees in Africa.

Singaporeans are advised to postpone non-essential travel to West Africa and check MOH's online Ebola advisory beforehand.

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