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Date [ 2015-07-02, 04:33 ]

The latest outbreak hovers over this region.

Where it all began.(Cr) Wioki

(Singapore=Koreanpress) Park So-jin = Recent health surveys done in Singapore seem to show the public is quite unaware what this new disease, or that there can be a serious emergence of it. Many feel the health authorities have a screening process up to prevent anyone with that disuse from coming into Singapore.

So what then is MERS-Cov? It is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, and like SARS, can cause acute respiratory illness in patients. The virus has an incubation period of 2 to 14 days, and it is believed that patients are not contagious during this period.

 Its symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some also have diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. Unlike the average respiratory illness, however, a MERS-infected patient will experience more severe complications over time, such as pneumonia and kidney failure.

The virus affects different people differently. Some experience mild or no symptoms at all and recover fully. About a third, however, succumb to the illness.

The virus appears to severely affect older, people with weaker immune systems, and people with chronic diseases as diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

First reported in 2012, all reported cases were first associated with the Middle East and travelers to that region. But then it spread towards the Far East and the most affected is South Korea. Mild outbreaks have been reported in Thailand.

The current outbreak in South Korea has attracted much attention. To date, 180 MERS cases have been confirmed by Korea with more than 30 deaths. In addition, another case was exported from Korea to Mainland China. To date, MERS-CoV cases have been reported in 25 countries, including China, Malaysia, UK, France, Tunisia, Italy and the Philippines.  Overall, the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) current assessment is that the risk of serious public health impact to Singapore due to an imported case of the MERS-CoV infection remains low.

MOH   remains vigilant to the threat of MERS-CoV in symptomatic travellers returning from affected areas. As of June 24, a total of 40 suspected cases have been investigated locally and all have tested negative for MERS-CoV. In any case, all suspected and confirmed cases will be isolated. MOH will conduct contact tracing when appropriate, and all close contacts of confirmed cases will be quarantined

But given the global connectivity, there is the possibility of the virus arriving on our shores, despite the issuing of health advisories and temperature screening at border checkpoints for travellers arriving from affected countries. Indeed, PM Lee has said that it is "just a matter of time" before the first case is detected in Singapore.

Singaporeans can be assured its healthcare institutions are readying themselves for this eventuality. Hospitals remain vigilant to test for MERS-CoV where clinically indicated, such as in patients with serious respiratory illness and a travel history to affected countries. All suspected and confirmed cases will also be isolated and managed under strict airborne infection control precautions. If a case is detected, MOH will conduct contact tracing when appropriate, and all close contacts will be placed under quarantine.

For the moment, the best advice to avoid this disease is NOT to travel to affected areas, such as the Arabian Peninsula and South Korea. But if you do travel there, take steps to maintain good personal hygiene: wash your hands frequently and wear a mask in crowded places. Do not visit healthcare facilities in these areas unless absolutely necessary.

Avoid contact with camels and other live farm or wild animals. Be sure to consume clean food and drink – and be wary of undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables. Check out MOH’s advisory of MERS.

If you had recently travelled to the Middle East or South Korea, monitor your health carefully for up to two weeks after your return. If you develop a fever and cough or shortness of breath, call ahead to a healthcare provider and mention your recent travel before going down to a hospital or clinic. Be honest about your travel history, to enable healthcare professionals to take appropriate precautions in your treatment.

On the other hand, if you know someone who had recently travelled to the Middle East or South Korea and had spent a prolonged period of time with them keep a close watch on your health. Especially if you have had direct contact with infectious secretions, such as standing nearby when they coughed. It would also do to keep a close watch on their health as well. If they have symptoms of respiratory illness, monitor your health for two weeks, starting from the day you last met the ill person.

Should you develop similar symptoms, do call ahead to a healthcare provider and mention your contact with the traveler before going down to a hospital or clinic. Be socially responsible - Stay home from work or school, and delay future travel to avoid infecting others.


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