First dengue death in Singapore

By Terry Xu

Singapore has its first victim in the current dengue fever epidemic. The victim was a 20-year-old Singaporean Chinese male who was seen at Tan  Tock Seng Hospital’s (TTSH) emergency department (ED) on 23 May and diagnosed as having viral fever. He was sent home after being given a drip by the hospital as reported by Straits Times. He was also asked to visit an outpatient clinic for follow up and a repeat blood test.

Straits Times also reported that Mr Ang went back to the hospital during the wee hours of Friday, 24th May after hitting as high as 39.5 degrees Celsius. He waited for five hours at the hospital before going to a general practitioner near his home according to Mr Ang’s mother. Mr Ang was eventually admitted to TTSH on Saturday night.

According to the joint statement by MOH and NEA, the patient subsequently returned to TTSH’s ED on 26 May and was admitted as a dengue case. During admission, his condition deteriorated despite medical interventions, and he passed away on 29 May.

MOH and NEA joint statement on 30th May 2013 while accounting for the death of the dengue fever victim, emphasized more on the urgency for greater community vigilance to stamp out possible mosquito breeding spots and promising more control operations at the vicinity of the case’s residence.

“MOH and NEA wish to express our deepest condolences to the family of the  deceased patient. We strongly encourage all Singaporeans to take appropriate precautions to prevent mosquito breeding by doing the Mozzie Wipeout weekly.”

It is pretty surprising that no one asked about or accounted for the statement by Mr Ang’s mother that this patient was allowed to wait for 5 hours  on last Friday, 24th May before he made the decision to leave to consult a general practicioner and being re-admitted to the hospital the day after.

Questions like why wasn’t Mr Ang being diagnosed with dengue fever during the first consultation? Given that more than 8,000 people have come down with dengue fever since the start of the year, why given the current dengue fever epidemic that fever patients are not given special attention? Why Mr Ang wasn’t asked to stay longer on 23th May to observe for signs of dengue fever if he has not been diagnosed with one?

MOH has chosen to push the issue to the dengue fever epidemic in its statement but in light of Mr Ang being made to seek private medical consultation after a 5 hours wait in his condition,it seems that the hospital’s response to the current epidemic is something that the public would probably want answers from.

Is waiting time up to five hours or more so common that it is no longer required to explain for the long wait that patients with serious illness or conditions are subjected to? Is there enough beds in the hospital where patients can stay to be observed by the medical professionals? Would MOH care to explain?

Would also wish to extend sincere condolences to the family members of Mr Ang on their loss of a beloved family member.