Picture courtesy of BBC


Donaldson Tan / Head, TOC International / London

LONDON – A study by Imperial College London revealed that one in three persons who come in contact with Swine Flu could be infected. According to lead researcher Professor Neil Ferguson, the Swine Flu virus H1N1 does have a full pandemic potential and it is likely to spread around the world in the next six to nine months. Professor Ferguson currently sits on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Emergency Committee for the Swine Flu Outbreak.

The Nature of Swine Flu

For every person infected, it is likely that there will be between 1.2 and 1.6 secondary cases. This is high compared to normal seasonal influenza, where around 10-15 percent of the population are likely to become infected. Children are twice as likely to become infected with Swine Flu. Data from an isolated Swine Flu outbreak in a Mexican village showed that 61% of those aged under 15 becoming infected, compared with 29% of those over 15.

The study also suggested that 4 in 1000 cases of Swine Flu infection could lead to death, thus making this strain of influenza as lethal as the one found in the 1957 Flu Pandemic. However, the researchers stressed that healthcare has greatly improved in many countries (including Singapore) since 1957 and the world is now better prepared. 92% of the deaths so far are concentrated in Mexico – a third world country where the population still suffers from poor healthcare infrastructure and inadequate access to healthcare.

Dr Keji Fukada, Acting Assistant Director General of WHO, had earlier cited that the people outside Mexico who contracted Swine Flu are in their mid-20s and that they were travelling. He raised the possibility that the age profile of Swine Flu patient reflected the fact that this age group represents the majority of international travellers or that older people are less susceptible to Swine Flu infection, just like most cases of influenza.

Important Things to take Note

Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan reminded Singaporeans not to over-react when they see more people down with flu.” Every year, seasonal flu cases in Singapore peak in the middle of the year, and again at year-end. The public should be mentally prepared for that, and not be alarmed when they see more people down with flu,” he said. The Singapore Government has lowered Swine Flu Alert Status from Orange to Yellow. So far, there is zero confirmed case of Swine Flu in Singapore while Southeast Asia has registered 2 confirmed cases in Thailand.

The standard treatment for Swine Flu is a 5-day course of Tamiflu and treatment should begin within the first 48 hours of infection. 5-day course of Tamiflu costs S$60 and it is only available as doctor’s prescription. Swine Flu becomes dangerous when it degenerates into Pneumonia. Every year, 600 Singaporeans die from Pneumonia developed from Seasonal Flu. It is not uncommon if one’s company healthcare plan or healthcare insurance do not cover Swine Flu. It is not known if Medisave can be used to cover Swine Flu treatment.

More information on preventive measures to avoid contracting Swine Flu can be found here


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