SINGAPORE: The 41-year-old man identified on Thursday (Feb 6) as Singapore’s 29th confirmed case of novel coronavirus had visited the Seletar clinic of Phoenix Medical Group twice before his infection was confirmed.
In a circular dated Feb 6, the Phoenix Medical Group said the man had visited its clinic in Seletar last Thursday and again on Monday.
The man appeared “quite ill” with gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms, as well as a moderate fever when he visited the clinic on Monday, and was asked to go to the emergency department, the group said.
He did not fulfil the Health Ministry’s (MOH) criteria for a suspected case of the coronavirus and as such was not sent to the hospital using a dedicated ambulance service, the circular said.
MOH then brought the case to Phoenix Medical’s attention at around midday on Thursday for active contact tracing, it added, noting the group was informed that his infection was confirmed later that night.
The 41-year-old, who is a Singapore citizen, had no recent travel history to mainland China and no known links with the other confirmed cases of the virus.
In its statement on Thursday, MOH said the man had developed a fever on Jan 28, five days after the first confirmed case of the coronavirus here was reported.
The ministry said that he had visited a general practitioner’s clinic on Jan 29, and subsequently sought treatment at another clinic on Jan 30, before being admitted to the Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital on Monday. MOH did not name the clinics.
On Wednesday at about 11pm, test results confirmed the man was infected by the coronavirus.
“Epidemiological investigations and contact tracing are ongoing to identify individuals who had close contact with the case, and to establish any link he may have had with confirmed cases in Singapore or travellers from mainland China,” MOH said in its statement.
“We are interviewing the patient and his close contacts, and investigating the locations he had recently been to,” it added.
Dr Chua Hshan Cher, a general practitioner at the clinic, said they initially considered the possibility of a coronavirus infection to be low as he did not meet the criteria stipulated by MOH.
The patient was tested for dengue fever and influenza last Thursday, both of which came back negative, he added. They also considered the possibility that he might have sepsis.
When he came back on Monday, his symptoms had worsened and he developed gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and loose stools.
"We referred him to hospital because there was progression of symptoms, no response to treatment and the patient appeared to be unwell," Dr Chua said.
In the Phoenix Medical Group’s circular – signed by three of the clinic’s doctors – it said all the rooms, corridors, table tops, seats and examination couches had been "deep cleansed" between 6pm and 9pm on Thursday.
The clinic had also engaged the mall operator's help in changing all the filters in the air conditioners, said Dr Chua.
"We've also implemented a strict recommendation of daily temperature taking, hourly sanitation and ensuring that any staff who feels unwell is sent home immediately."
He added that masks are compulsory for staff.
Previous measures include a questionnaire asking patients if they have travelled to China in the past two weeks or had contact with anyone who had been to China within the same time period.
They also ask for patients for their occupation, so as to identify frontline jobs that may expose the patients to potential Chinese visitors.
The doctor who attended to the man is on a voluntary leave of absence until Feb 17, and is currently well, it noted.
“We would like to assure members of the public, patients and well-meaning family and friends that we will remain vigilant against the scourge of the novel coronavirus and continue our fight against it,” Phoenix Medical said in the circular.
Additional reporting by Farez Juraimi.