Woman suspected to have SARS-related virus tests negative

PHOTO: Woman suspected to have SARS-related virus tests negative

SINGAPORE - The woman who was admitted into Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and believed to be infected with a virus related to the deadly Sars infection has tested negative.

This comes after a tweet was circulated online at about 4pm yesterday warning people to stay away from the hospital as a "possible suspect case at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) was being investigated for possible coronavirus infection."

SGH confirmed that the patient was admitted after she travelled from Kuwait to Singapore via a 2-hour transit at Qatar and fell ill.

"Laboratory tests have since confirmed that the patient does not have the infection," an SGH spokesperson said. "Her illness is associated with influenza A(H1N1) infection, which is one of the circulating seasonal influenza strains."

The spokesperson added that while most cases of influenza are mild, the female patient has a history of chronic disease and as such, has a higher risk of developing complications.

Last month, the Ministry of Health (MOH) was alerted to an unknown virus related to the Sars infection.

The alert was issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after it confirmed two cases linked to the coronavirus, which can cause severe pneumonia and acute kidney failure.

The first case was a 60-year-old male national from Saudi Arabia who died in July this year. The second case was a 49-year-old male Qatari national who had visited Saudi Arabia shortly before his illness.

The virus isolated from both patients has been confirmed to be highly similar. However, the two cases are not directly linked to each other epidemiologically, MOH said.

The ministry said that based on latest available information, the public health risk due to the unknown virus related to the SARS infection has been assessed to be low.

It added that all hospitals here have been notified of the virus and that there was no need for any additional measures until more information was available.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. They are a common cause of mild respiratory illness in humans, but are also known to cause outbreaks of severe illness, such as SARS in 2003.