Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Influenza A (H1N1) Virus is Getting Closer

After reaching Thailand, yesterday the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, previously known as the swine flu virus, is confirmed to have reached Malaysia’s soil by the country’s top health official. The patient is a 21-year-old male student who arrived on a Malaysia Airlines flight from Newark (near New York) in the Unites States, via Stockholm, Sweden.

This confirms that the virus is now getting much closer to Singapore and Indonesia. While the Malaysia official confirmed that there’s no Singaporean passengers nor any passengers with onward connecting flights to Singapore, the MH091 flight from Newark is a code share flight with Garuda Indonesia, so there could be some passengers, exposed to the infected patient on the same flight, who might have gone to Indonesia.

I wonder whether the Indonesian health officials have taken the necessary precautions on this matter. From what I understand, everyone there is very busy preparing for the presidential election.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) of Singapore says that it is only a matter of time before the virus reaches Singapore. Yes, I agree that it’s not possible to prevent the virus from entering Singapore, since the virus has been reported to be highly contagious. More efforts should be put into treating the infected patients when the virus comes in, rather than fire-fighting in preventing the virus from reaching Singapore.

However, I disagree with the Singapore government’s move to lower its alert level for the H1N1 flu from orange to yellow last week, despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) maintaining its alert level on 5 (near pandemic) out of 6. I personally think that lowering the alert level would bring Singapore residents closer to complacency and will make them become less alerted. With this latest development, it would be wise for the government to increase its alert level back to orange.

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