Wuhan pneumonia: First suspected case reported in Singapore

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health said on Saturday (Jan 4) that it had been notified of the first suspected case of the mystery Wuhan virus here, involving a three-year-old girl from China who had pneumonia and a travel history to the Chinese city of Wuhan.

She had been warded for further assessment and treatment, and isolated as a precautionary measure, said the ministry.

Countries have grown concerned over a viral outbreak in Wuhan marked by unusual cases of pneumonia. These appear to be linked to a wholesale seafood market there, where not just seafood is sold, but also live animals, including, reportedly, birds and snakes, and the organs of rabbits and other wildlife.

At least 44 people had been affected there; and 11 were seriously ill, raising the spectre of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) which hit Singapore hard in 2003.

Singapore has started temperature screening for passengers arriving from the city at Changi Airport, and doctors are on the look out for possible cases.

Experts, however, say that there have been no reports of human-to-human transmission, which means much less risk to the public.

The girl in Singapore was in stable condition, MOH said, without giving details on how the case had been uncovered.

It noted that she had not visited the Huanan seafood wholesale market in Wuhan associated with the cluster of pneumonia cases.

Preliminary tests also showed that she was positive for Respiratory Syncytial Virus, MOH added, which is a common cause of childhood pneumonia.

Investigations are ongoing to confirm this as the cause.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract and is so common that most children have been infected with the virus by age two, according to the Mayo Clinic in the United States.

Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and the Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Saturday that Singapore is monitoring the pneumonia situation in Wuhan closely.

"There is no evidence of people-to-people transmission, so will likely be just a normal fever outbreak," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"But after Sars in 2003, we cannot be complacent."

There are two airlines connecting directly to Wuhan, he said - Scoot and Urumqi Airlines, and the first temperature screening at T1 for a Scoot flight, an uneventful one, was done on Saturday morning.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.