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Nigerian woman sent to Singapore hospital did not have Ebola: MOH

The patient, who is in her 50s, was reportedly suffering from a high fever. She has since been discharged.

SINGAPORE: Fears of the first case of Ebola surfacing in Singapore on Thursday (Aug 14) proved unfounded.

In a statement, the Health Ministry clarified that there is no suspect case of Ebola in Singapore at present. "The case in question was indeed referred to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, but she does not fit the case definition," it said. "MOH will continue to closely monitor the situation, and continually assess and calibrate its measures."

The scare began when a Nigerian woman was transferred from Gleneagles Hospital to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH)'s Communicable Diseases Centre on Thursday. She was suffering from a high fever.

The woman, who "flew in to Singapore from Nigeria some days ago", had gone to Gleneagles for an undisclosed procedure. Gleneagles said it alerted the Health Ministry after it found that the woman had fever and came from a country affected by Ebola.

The hospital says the ministry then asked the hospital to transfer the woman to the Accident & Emergency department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). While waiting for the ambulance to arrive from TTSH, the woman "was kept in an isolation room in its Accident & Emergency department.

At 3.45pm on Thursday, the Straits Times sent a tweet saying that Singapore “may have its first suspected case of Ebola”. The tweet linked to a story which said that the woman, in her 50s, “was identified as a possible Ebola case by doctors at Gleneages on Thursday morning”.

However, at 4.27pm, the Straits Times sent another tweet citing TTSH as saying that she “does not have Ebola as first feared”. The newspaper's original tweet and story have since been deleted.

TTSH Chief Executive Officer Philip Choo was quoted by the Straits Times as saying: "We saw a patient with a history from Nigeria, (but her detailed history revealed) no contact with any suspect or confirmed patients." The patient has already been discharged, he added.

The death toll in the worst epidemic of Ebola since its discovery four decades ago climbed to 1,069 on Wednesday, according to the World Health Organisation. Nearly 2,000 have now been infected.

However, the Health Ministry says the risk of Ebola in Singapore remains low as there is limited human traffic between West Africa and Singapore. Speaking at an emergency preparedness drill at Changi Airport on Thursday (Aug 14), Mr Koh Peng Keng, Group Director of MOH's Operations Group also pointed out that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is spreading because of a relatively under-developed healthcare system, and a different kind of healthcare-seeking behaviour.

"You hear of many patients who are ill but they don't go to the hospital, they rather be cared for at home," said Mr Koh. He also noted that funeral practices in West Africa accounted for 60 per cent of Ebola transmission there. "We have got very different conditions (in Singapore). So while this is a very infectious disease, we think the conditions here, with our healthcare system and behaviour, this is something we can put under control." 

The Health Ministry said it will continue to closely monitor the situation, and continually assess and calibrate its measures. Travellers are advised to consult a doctor early, and inform the doctor of their travel history if they become unwell with sudden onset of high fever, stomach pains, diarrhoea, vomiting, rash or bleeding, within three weeks of being in any of the affected areas in West Africa. 

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