Thursday, July 30, 2009

H1N1 Flu: Singapore's Infections Soar...

The Straits Times of Singapore reports on July 30, that "the H1N1 flu bug is spreading like wildfire, more than doubling the number of people down with influenza."

Polyclinic attendances for upper respiratory tract infections have shot past epidemic levels — pegged at 16,665 cases a week — for the first time in more than three years.

Polyclinic attendances are a yardstick for the number of infectious diseases, as these clinics treat about 20 per cent of patients with acute ailments; national figure would be about five times that.

Two weeks ago, URTIs passed the epidemic threshold, with 18,705 cases. Last week these reached 22,880 cases.

Normally in Singapore, polyclinics see ~ 13,340 patients a week who have coughs, colds, the flu or flare-ups of chronic illnesses like asthma.

Nationwide, the number is usually 20% of the 75,000 patients that clinics see in total in any week. In July 2009, such infections accounted for more than a quarter of all cases. It is not known how many of these were caused by Influenza A (H1N1).

A Health Ministry spokesman said that most H1N1 flu patients have only mild illness and do not need antiviral medicine, such as Tamiflu; the vast majority need only conventional medicine to treat their symptoms, e.g. fever medicines, and plenty of rest.

The large increase is attributed the wider sustained community spread of H1N1 — with no immunity to the new strain, it is spreading quickly. Estimates are that more than one in two people with influenza have the H1N1 virus.

So far, 5 people in Singapore have died of it. Worldwide, there have been more than 800 deaths.

Singapore's Health Ministry spokesman said numbers are expected to stay high for another week or two as the epidemic peaks, and urged the public to seek medical treatment promptly if they are unwell and to continue exercising social responsibility.

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