Sunday, September 13, 2009

Singapore braces for second H1N1 wave

Singapore hospitals brace for new H1N1 wave

A recent Singapore press statement (The Straits Time, September 4, 2009) noted that hospitals in the tiny island republic, have been asked to brace for a possible second wave of Influenza A (H1N1), even as the number of cases decline recently.

So although some among our citizens and doctors have felt that this A(H1N1) flu is just another flu, 'hyped up' to be worse that it really is, such sentiments should be considered as outside conventional wisdom.

While we welcome contrarian viewpoints, we should still be prudent when it comes to public health initiatves and direction.

Infectious disease experts in Sinagpore estimated that the first wave had infected about 700,000 people there, which means that some four-fifths of the population have still not been exposed to the virus.

As of Aug 31, 1,181 people with H1N1 had been hospitalised, with 77 needing intensive care. To date, 17 have died: four had no pre-existing conditions.

Associate Professor Paul Ananth Tambyah, head of the National University Hospital’s infectious diseases division, said the numbers were in line with those from other countries and validated Singapore’s approach to have pandemic-preparedness clinics look after the vast majority of patients with flu.

The WHO predicts that two billion people will likely be infected worldwide by this new virus, with a “second wave” expected during winter in the northern hemisphere, the traditional flu season. But as the virus has not changed much so far, the outbreak is likely to be mild and not drawn out, said doctors.

The Singapore health ministry is taking no chances, and will have two million courses of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu by the end of this year, almost double the original stockpile. Another 200,000 courses of Relenza will be added to the current 550,000 in the national stockpile. Singapore has a contract with Australian drug maker CSL for a pandemic vaccine, enough for the population.

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