as reported in channel newsasia,
Singapore stockpiles enough treatment courses for swine flu
Channel NewsAsia – Thursday, April 30
SINGAPORE: There are enough courses of medicine stockpiled in Singapore should an outbreak of swine flu occur here. Hospitals are also freeing up more beds as a precautionary measure should a flu pandemic hit.
At Tan Tock Seng Hospital, if someone shows up with a fever of more than 38 degrees Celsius, has respiratory problems, and has been to affected countries in the last seven days, tests will first be done to determine if the person has one of Singapore’s usual circulating flu strains.
If the strain does not resemble the common ones, its genome sequence will be mapped and the person will be quarantined in the Communicable Disease Centre (CDC).
Dr Lyn James, director, Communicable Diseases Department, Health Ministry (MOH), said: “Once we identify patients with this untypical Influenza A, we will do further testing to confirm. At this present time, our capability is to do partial sequencing of this virus for preliminary confirmation.
“We can sequence the critical part of the virus and compare it with the swine influenza virus and this will tell us that it is very, very highly likely to be swine influenza virus.”
Currently, it takes up to seven days to confirm a case of swine flu here, but it may be faster once the diagnostic test kit, which is being developed, gets the green light.
As one third of swine flu virus carriers do not show any symptoms, MOH has called on members of the public who have been to affected countries to avoid crowded places for seven days after they return as this is the incubation period for flu.
There were no drugs available to treat SARS when it happened in 2003. But this time round, the drugs Tamiflu and Relenza appear to be effective in treating swine flu, provided that the treatment starts early, within 48 hours of the manifestation of the symptoms.
Doctors have stressed that Tamiflu is not a vaccine and taking it now will adversely impact your ability to fight swine flu should you contract the disease.
There are currently 1.15 million courses of Tamiflu and 50,000 courses of Relenza stocked in Singapore.
Doctors said current vaccines available in the market are not effective against swine flu and there is a chance that the flu could hit more than once.
Professor K Satku, director, Medical Services, MOH, said: “You cannot assume, like in the case of SARS, when it fizzled out, it just fizzled out. The 1918 pandemic came back again and therefore we must understand that there is a possibility a second wave may take place, and possibly even a third. That’s what happens sometimes. We must be prepared for the long haul.”
Hospitals have been told to postpone elective surgeries, so that beds will be freed up in the event of an outbreak.