Tuesday, June 23, 2009

H1N1 Flu: Is it time to move from Containment to Mitigation Mode?

H1N1 Flu escalates in Singapore with more local transmission.

A(H1N1) spreads in Singapore

A Star newspaper report puts the growing scale of this pandemic on a thought-provoking spin with the modification of public health policy now in place in Singapore.

Another 26 new cases of Influenza A(H1N1) was confirmed on Monday: 17 local cases and 9 cases with travel history, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 168.

"In a statement Tuesday, its Health Ministry said it appeared that community spread had gathered momentum with more cases from local transmission reported."

Thus, the Singapore Health Ministry was readying local polyclinics and hundreds of general practitioners to treat suspected cases, and has incorporated these clinics to help to manage patients with influenza-like illness as the government moved from containment into mitigation mode.

Perhaps in Malaysia we may sooner than later move towards this community approach of reducing the impact by allowing more local resources to handle the outbreak and hope for it to peter out sooner once community or herd immunity gathers momentum.

Otherwise, it is becoming extremely likely that a lot of hard-earned resources and expenses would have to be expended, with the futility that the H1N1 flu is set to dominate anyway...

This appears to have been the approach of countries such as UK, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and lately even Japan. Of course places such as Thailand and Philippines are not equipped to really contain the outbreak and hence their operations are at best leaky and porous anyway.

Perhaps it is time to give the seasonal flu vaccine to all front-liners and their dependents, and then allow greater distribution of the antiviral therapies once confirmation is made by any medical practitioner, with the proviso that home quarantine be imposed and some semblance of civic duty reinforced by government media pronouncements and directives.

Employers, agencies and schools must exercise cautionary discretion to assist in mitigating these spread and hope for the pandemic to blow over.

But then again I am no expert as to how to really forecast this unprecedented new disease...


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