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Low risk of bird flu outbreak in Singapore: MOH

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said there is a low risk of an outbreak of the H7N9 strain of bird flu in Singapore, as long as the virus characteristics do not change.

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) said there is a low risk of an outbreak of the H7N9 strain of bird flu in Singapore, as long as the virus characteristics do not change.

MOH said there is currently no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus.

In a media release, the ministry said its current assessment of the bird flu is that it poses a low public health risk to Singapore.

And the public is advised not to be alarmed by reports of H7N9 cases overseas.

Since the start of winter in the northern hemisphere, there had been more human cases of bird flu (H7N9 strain) reported from China.

On Monday, China reported that two people have died from the H7N9 strain of bird flu in Shanghai.

MOH said there may be increased circulation of the flu virus in the colder months, with increased poultry production and mass movements of people during the festive seasons.

Thus, there may be more human cases reported overseas in the coming months.

MOH is in close contact with the World Health Organization (WHO) and its counterparts internationally, and will continue to monitor the situation.

Singapore hospitals remain vigilant to test for H7N9 and other avian influenza where clinically indicated, such as in patients with serious respiratory illness and a compatible travel history.

All suspected and confirmed cases will be isolated.

In addition, MOH will conduct contact tracing and all close contacts will be placed under surveillance, if a case is detected.

To reduce the risk of exposure to H7N9, the ministry advises Singaporeans travelling to affected areas to maintain vigilance and adopt general health precautions when overseas.

These include:

• Observe good personal hygiene at all times;

• Practise frequent hand washing (before handling food or eating, after going to the toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretion after coughing or sneezing);

• Avoid close contact with persons suffering from acute respiratory infections (for example, someone who is coughing);

• Avoid contact with poultry, birds and other wild animals, and visiting live poultry markets. If contact has been made, thoroughly wash hands with soap;

• Adopt good food safety and hygiene practices and avoid consuming under-cooked meats and eggs;

• Wear a mask and seek medical attention promptly if you become unwell with fever and cough while travelling in or within two weeks of being in any of the areas, and inform the doctor of the areas that you have travelled to.

H7N9 infection is transmitted to humans by direct exposure to infected live or dead poultry or birds, or indirectly through exposure to environments contaminated by infected poultry or birds, such as in a farmyard or market setting.

There is currently no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus.

Singapore does not import live or raw poultry from China.

Only processed poultry products which have been heat-treated to eliminate bird flu virus are allowed to be imported from accredited establishments in China. 

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