Thursday 16 October 2014

Ebola screening measures stepped up at Changi Airport

By Kash Cheong, The Straits Times, 15 Oct 2014

NEW measures will be introduced at Changi Airport at noon today (Oct 15) to screen incoming travellers for Ebola.

Nationals and travellers from countries with reported Ebola virus disease activity - Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo - will be directed to a screening station to get their temperature checked, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday.

They will be required to answer a questionnaire on exposure to Ebola and fill in a health declaration card, which will include their contact details in Singapore.

Travellers who are cleared will be directed to the duty desk at the arrival hall, where they will clear immigration control.

The new measures follow the detection of Ebola cases in the United States and Spain, which show that an imported case and the potential for community exposure from imported cases cannot be ruled out, MOH said.

Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa since an outbreak started this year.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said yesterday that the number of cases in three West African nations may jump to between 5,000 and 10,000 a week by Dec 1, as the deadly viral infection spreads.

The outbreak is still expanding geographically in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Dr Bruce Aylward, the WHO's assistant director-general in charge of the Ebola response, said in a briefing with reporters in Geneva.

With the new measures at Changi Airport, passengers screened and found to have a fever will be transported in an appropriate ambulance to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for further medical assessment, said MOH.

Travellers who are well but who are identified as having possible exposure to Ebola virus infection will be quarantined or put under surveillance, depending on the risk assessment.

MOH has also reminded all Singapore hospitals to be vigilant against possible suspect cases.

Singapore's public hospitals have the appropriate infection control measures in place, said MOH.

Before travelling to West or Central Africa, members of the public are encouraged to refer to MOH's travel advisory, which can be found online.

MOH, TTSH step up on measures to protect healthcare workers against Ebola
By Kelly Ng, TODAY, 24 Oct 2014

With healthcare workers at greater risk of catching Ebola, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) have stepped up on training and protective measures for staff, setting up a trained core team to handle any cases and conducting drills, on top of acquiring enhanced protective equipment.

This comes after a series of cases in the United States, where medical staff caring for Ebola patients contracted the virus.

Speaking at a media conference today, TTSH — the hospital designated for handling Ebola cases here — said it has set aside 10,000 sets of enhanced personal protective equipment.

Each healthcare worker has to go through a 10-step procedure when donning the gear, which includes wearing two layers of gowns and 12-inch gloves, and getting a colleague to check that her equipment is in order, before entering the isolation area.

The protective gear is made of fluid-resistant material, and covers every inch of the worker, to ensure that he or she will not get into contact with a patient’s bodily fluids.

To reduce chances of contamination by suspected cases, dedicated facilities and equipment have also been set aside in the hospital, including 13 negative-pressure isolation rooms with strict infection control procedures, decontamination and waste management systems.

There is also a dedicated route in the hospital’s emergency department for moving suspected patients.

All healthcare institutions here, including hospitals, polyclinics and private clinics, have been put on alert to promptly refer suspected cases to TTSH.

MOH director of medical services Professor Benjamin Ong said Singapore must remain vigilant in light of how the virus has spread to countries outside West Africa in the last month, but noted that the spread can be contained with early identification and isolation of patients, and quarantine.

Visa requirement for West African countries affected by Ebola
By Salma Khalik Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 4 Nov 2014

FROM tomorrow, citizens of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - three countries where the deadly Ebola virus is spreading - must have a visa before they can enter Singapore, even if they are arriving here from a different country.

This move to bolster Singapore's defence against Ebola was announced yesterday in Parliament by Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min.

Dr Lam said this will "allow for better oversight and control of entry" of the nationals from these West African countries, and will make it easier to trace people they come into contact with. Singapore gets about 30 visitors in total from these three nations monthly.

Since August, the Health Ministry has also put in place "border control measures" to guard against the risk of Ebola entering the country, Dr Lam said.

Travellers coming from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali will be sent directly to Tan Tock Seng Hospital if they have a fever on arrival.

All visitors flying in from these countries must also complete a health declaration card and a questionnaire to assess their risk of exposure to Ebola.

Those deemed to be at high risk will be "put on very close surveillance" which includes quarantine either in their home or in government facilities, Dr Lam said.

Others will be put on phone surveillance for 21 days to check if they become sick, before they are allowed to continue with their activities unrestricted, he added. Ebola patients are not infectious until they develop symptoms.

Dr Chia also asked if the Health Ministry would consider imposing a total ban on travel to and from the affected African nations until the "backbone of the epidemic has been broken".

Dr Lam said such a move "cannot be taken lightly". It depends on the extent of the epidemic in those nations, their public health infrastructure and advice from the World Health Organisation and experts here. Congo, for instance, is set to be declared Ebola-free on Nov 21 if no new cases emerge. Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States have imported cases of Ebola.

He added: "The situation is very dynamic and we will continue to review our measures as the Ebola situation evolves."

Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam asked what Singapore has learnt from the mistakes that led to transmission of cases in Spain and the US. Dr Lam said three of the five transmitted cases there involved health-care workers and may have been caused by "breaches in infection control measures such as improper removal of personal protective equipment".

Ebola cases 'could hit 10,000 a week'
Outbreak expanding in African nations: WHO
The Straits Times, 15 Oct 2014

LONDON - The number of Ebola cases in three West African nations may jump to between 5,000 and 10,000 a week by December as the deadly viral infection spreads, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned yesterday.

The outbreak is still expanding geographically in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and the number of cases in the capital cities is increasing, the WHO's assistant director-general in charge of the Ebola response, Mr Bruce Aylward, told reporters in Geneva.

"Any sense that the great effort that's been kicked off over the last couple of months is already starting to see an impact - that would be really, really premature," Mr Aylward said. "The virus is still moving geographically and still escalating in capitals, and that is what concerns me."

More than 8,900 people have been infected with Ebola in the three countries, with more than 4,400 deaths, he said. The number of new cases is slowing in some areas, such as Lofa county in Liberia, and Kenema and Kailahun in Sierra Leone, he said.

"There's a lot of bleak news out there about this outbreak and there should be," Mr Aylward said. Still, he added, "there are a lot of things that are positive".

By Dec 1, the WHO's goal is for 70 per cent of those who die from the disease to be buried safely and 70 per cent of cases to properly managed, Mr Aylward said.

If those goals are met, the number of new cases should decline from week to week beginning in January, he said.

In Britain, passengers arriving at London's Heathrow Airport are now being screened for Ebola as the nation steps up measures to combat the disease, scrapping plans to allow a resumption of flights to afflicted parts of Africa.

Targeted screening of a "low number" of passengers began yesterday at Terminal 1, which handles 85 per cent of travellers to Europe's busiest hub from the affected states. The checks include temperature readings specified by Public Health England and are the most stringent in Europe, even though the airport has no direct services to the Ebola area.

Meanwhile, the virus' arrival in the US is stirring anxiety across the airline industry as flight crews and passengers fret that a fever or upset stomach on board could be a sign of the deadly disease. False alarms are becoming routine at US airports.

Emergency crews surrounded an Emirates Airline jet in Boston yesterday after passengers showed flu-like symptoms, three days after a similar rush to isolate a Delta Air Lines plane in Las Vegas because of an Ebola scare.


Singapore to donate US$150,000 to support WHO Ebola efforts
TODAY, 21 Oct 2014

The Singapore government will be making an additional contribution of US$150,000 (S$191,000) to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support the WHO Ebola Response Roadmap.

This is in response to appeals made by the United Nations (UN) and WHO, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health in a joint statement today (Oct 21).

The ministries said: “Singapore is deeply concerned about the unprecedented scale of the Ebola outbreak in West and Central Africa and the suffering caused by inadequate medical facilities and resources.”

Singapore had earlier contributed an aid package that comprised of medicines, medical supplies and personal protective equipment which are in short supply for medical professionals on the ground.

Singapore will continue to work closely with the UN and WHO to explore how best to contribute to ongoing efforts.

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