SINGAPORE: Doctors have urged members of the public to remain calm and observe proper hygiene practices, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Singapore rose to three on Friday (Jan 24).
This includes wearing masks when unwell and practising proper hand washing, they told CNA.
As of Friday, the number of suspected cases had climbed to 44, with patients aged between one to 78, according to the Health Ministry.
At least 25 deaths had been reported in China as of Friday, with more than 830 confirmed cases of the virus. Cases have also been confirmed in Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and the United States.
Below are some guidelines on how to respond to the Wuhan virus situation in Singapore, according to medical professionals.
1. DON'T PANIC
Members of the public should stay calm, said infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang.
“Because the Wuhan coronavirus is currently not spreading in Singapore, people should not panic and overreact,” said Assoc Prof Hsu, who is programme leader of infectious diseases and co-director of global health at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.
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“There is no need to stockpile masks, for example. The Ministry of Health, which has learned critical lessons from the various outbreaks that afflicted Singapore including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), will issue appropriate guidance and information in a timely manner,” he added.
Instead, people should keep abreast of the situation, put on masks when they feel unwell, wash their hands properly and avoid travel to Hubei province, which is the epicentre of the crisis.
2. WEAR A SURGICAL MASK
Infectious diseases expert Dr Leong Hoe Nam urged people to use a surgical mask instead of an N95 mask.
“A surgical mask works both ways. It can prevent transmission from others to you and from you to others,” he said.
When worn, the mask should cover the nose and mouth and rest on the chin, he added. It is important for the mask to fit well, he said.
The mask can be used until it is wet inside. Once wet, it should be replaced with a new one. This means that a dry mask can be used again, Dr Leong said. He advised users to keep it in a bag without deforming it.
He cautioned that drying a mask in the open could allow the germs to spread in the air.
Wearing an N95 mask could be counter-productive as users might touch their faces more often from discomfort, spreading viruses on their hands, he said.
3. WASH HANDS THOROUGHLY
Head of primary care at Healthway Medical Dr John Cheng said the use of anti-bacterial and alcohol-based soaps is recommended.
“This is especially when coming into contact with common exchanged items such as money and utensils, and items such as handrails and lift buttons,” he said. Using hand sanitisers is as effective, he added.
According to Singapore’s HealthHub, proper hand washing means washing hands for at least 30 seconds with soap and water.
“The constant rubbing action helps soap break down the grease and dirt that carry most germs. This way, your hands don’t just smell fresh, but you’ll also reduce the germ count on your hands by up to 99 per cent,” according to the website.
The recommended eight-step hand-washing routine includes cleaning between fingers, the base of thumbs and fingernails.
If there is no soap available, Dr Leong said that water alone could be effective as it can also break down viruses.
While there is no vaccination available for the Wuhan virus, Dr Leong said that the general public being vaccinated against influenza will reduce the risk of them from falling sick.
This will reduce the burden on the healthcare system and prevent distraction from people who need attention more urgently, he added.
Dr Cheng said that aside from the influenza vaccine to protect an individual against influenza-based infections, it is also important to have all other vaccinations up-to-date to safeguard your general health and immunity.
These include vaccines for hepatitis A, B, typhoid, region-specific vaccines and pneumonia vaccines.
“This is important especially for the elderly and immunocompromised patients,” he said.
For full coverage and latest developments on the Wuhan virus outbreak: https://cna.asia/wuhan-virus