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MOH to issue health advisory to Mideast travellers over MERS

The Ministry of Health will be distributing its health advisory to travellers flying to areas affected by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus  in the Middle East from May 6. 

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health said it is stepping up precautionary measures as the possibility of an imported case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) cannot be ruled out given today's globalised travel patterns.

The death toll from the disease has climbed to 115 in Saudi Arabia, since it first appeared there in 2012.

From Tuesday, the Health Ministry will hand its health advisory to those travelling to MERS affected areas in the Middle East.

Currently, only those flying into Singapore from affected areas are handed the advisory.

Presently, there is no advice against travel to countries of the Arabian Peninsula, or to countries reporting cases of MERS.

No cases of MERS have been detected in Singapore so far, but MOH said healthcare institutions here remain vigilant.

The Singapore General Hospital (SGH) said being aware and alert is important, and precautions must be taken.

“For MERS-CoV, awareness and alertness is important,” said Dr Ling Moi Lin, director of infection control at SGH.

“We have been giving briefings to our staff, so… they need to look out for someone who is not well with upper respiratory tract infection, plus a travel history to the Middle East region. So of course, if there is a suspect, we would immediately go according to our protocol in terms of isolation and so forth.”

“Secondly, the good practice of practicing cough etiquette or covering your cough. Anybody who has got a cough, or a fever, or a running nose, should be wearing surgical masks whenever they attend to a patient and this applies to all staff, visitors and even patients.

“And of course, hand hygiene is important… in all our moments of care for our patient because that really breaks transmission.”

Tan Puay Koon, who is heading to Dubai on holiday this weekend, says she will be taking extra precautions, like wearing a mask.

The 40-year-old has also done research on how to practice good personal hygiene.

She said: "I may not know whether we're touching animals or whatsoever. I'm trying to avoid all these things. But if I have touched them, then I know I'll have to do more washing and I know the washing has to be very thorough."

Singaporeans travelling to affected areas are advised by MOH to maintain vigilance and to avoid contact with persons suffering from acute respiratory infections and to avoid contact with camels and other live farm or wild animals.

MOH also advised frequent travellers to the Middle East and Umrah or Haj pilgrims to be vaccinated against influenza and meningitis.

It reiterated that as sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus has not been reported, the risk of an outbreak in our community remains low. 

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