Patients' travel history, dedicated isolation areas: GPs take measures in wake of Wuhan virus

Patients' travel history, dedicated isolation areas: GPs take measures in wake of Wuhan virus

Singapore clinic
Patients waiting to see the doctor at a clinic in Singapore. (File photo: TODAY)

SINGAPORE: Measures are in place at general practitioner (GP) clinics to ensure that suspected cases of the Wuhan virus are screened and dealt with appropriately, doctors told CNA on Friday (Jan 24).

These measures include temperature taking, checks on travel history as well as the setting up of isolation areas for those who could be suspect cases. 

READ: Two more people test positive for Wuhan virus in Singapore; total of 3 confirmed cases: MOH

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What is key is determining the travel history of patients, given that symptoms of the Wuhan virus are similar to the flu, said Dr Lye Tong Fong, a general practitioner at Central 24-hr Clinic Group. 

"The risk factors are basically their travel history and whether they are exposed to people also with these issues," he said. "It's very hard to tell based on symptoms because the ... virus symptoms are almost like flu, there is no difference. So from pure symptoms alone you can't really tell."

"We have an isolated area (room) to put the suspect cases while waiting for an ambulance," said Dr Elly Sabrina, a general practitioner at Banyan Clinic, where notices have also been set up to inform patients to declare if they had travelled to China within the last 14 days.

Doctors CNA spoke to said they will put on protective gear before attending to suspect cases immediately.

READ: Singaporeans should be ‘calm but watchful’ after first Wuhan virus case, says PM Lee in Chinese New Year message

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"The doctor will put on our PPE (personal protective equipment) and then we will examine them. That's important because we also do not want to transmit the virus to (other) patients." This patient will also been seen immediately, added Dr Elly.

If the patient is deemed medically stable, they will be sent to the hospital by a dedicated ambulance service, said Dr Elly. Doctors have been instructed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to call for a Singapore Civil Defence Force ambulance, if the patient is deemed to be medically unstable.

Patients aged 16 years and above whose conditions are medically stable will be sent to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital Emergency Department, while those below 16 years of age will be sent to KKH Children’s Emergency Department. 

Such measures have already been put into place prior to the first confirmed case of the Wuhan virus, said doctors. "Steps have already been circulated to all the GPs, so we all know what to do," said Dr Elly. 

According to a Jan 23 MOH circular to GPs seen by CNA, a suspect case is defined as "a person with clinical signs and symptoms suggestive of pneumonia or severe respiratory infection with breathlessness and travel to mainland China within 14 days before onset of illness".

It also refers to "a person with an acute respiratory illness of any degree of severity who, within 14 days before onset of illness, had been to a hospital in mainland China or had close contact with a case of 2019 novel coronavirus infection".

READ: Wuhan virus patient's hotel room 'thoroughly disinfected', workers who cleaned room quarantined: Shangri-La Group

READ: Wuhan virus in Singapore: What we know about the confirmed cases

In a media briefing on Thursday, MOH confirmed Singapore's first case of the Wuhan virus. 

The patient, a 66-year-old Chinese man who is a Wuhan resident, arrived in Singapore with his family on Jan 20, flew from Guangzhou via China Southern flight CZ351. 

He reported having a sore throat while on the flight but no fever. The man developed a fever the next day and began coughing. 

When he went to SGH on Wednesday, he was immediately isolated, diagnosed with pneumonia and identified to MOH as a suspect case at 10pm. He tested positive for the new coronavirus at 6pm on Thursday. 

The man is currently in isolation at the Singapore General Hospital and is in stable condition.

On Friday afternoon, the ministry announced two more confirmed cases. The new patients include the 37-year-old son of the first confirmed case.

READ: Wuhan virus in Singapore: What can you do?

READ: Wuhan virus outbreak - At a glance

The other is a 53-year-old woman from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore on a Scoot flight at 5.30am on Jan 21, and developed a fever, cough and chills in the afternoon, said MOH.

She sought medical attention at Raffles Hospital the next day and was later taken to the emergency department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where she was immediately isolated.

MOH was notified of a suspect case on Jan 23. The woman subsequently tested positive for the virus at midnight.

"There's no need to panic," said Dr Lye. "The point is that you are at risk with certain medical conditions or you are elderly, just refrain from travelling outside (the country) to avoid this.

"As for healthy people, don't go to troubled areas and if you have a fever, be automatic and stay at home. Don't spread the germs around. If there's this type of practice, it shouldn't enable the epidemic to spread rapidly."

MORE: Our coverage on the Wuhan virus and its developments

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Source: CNA/mt

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