The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) outbreak in South Korea has claimed its 14th victim as the number of infections climbed to 138.

Studies by World Health Organisation (WHO) identified several reasons for the rapid spread of MERS in Korea. This includes the lack of awareness of the disease, even among doctors, who treated the affected individuals as having respiratory issues and nothing more.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed that the region’s inter-connectivity means that Singapore must assume that MERS will enter the country. For us, it is only a matter of time… About 40,000 travellers including returning Singaporeans come from Korean to Singapore each month

TTSH has been designated by Singapore’s Health Ministry to be the hospital for MERS-CoV patient cases since the virus was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Are Singaporeans prepared? Have we taken all the measures necessary to minimise the chance of this incident coming to our shores?

Here is what we can take note.

 Do Not Panic

The last thing you want to do is cause a massive public alarm that will spread paranoia in public spaces such that taking a bus home and buying groceries will  be a problem.

‘Robust’ Preparedness Plan

Trust the process and the capability of our medical teams. It added that processes are in place at the hospital’s Emergency Department, to evaluate and screen patients with clinical signs of respiratory illnesses and a travel history to suspected regions. If suspected, patients are managed separately with masks and placed in isolation rooms for further medical consultation.

If needed, they will then be admitted into designated isolation wards at the Communicable Diseases Centre (CDC). The hospital said it has about 100 isolation beds ready should there be an outbreak. Resources can also be ramped up if the situation escalates.

Personal Responsibility

The best way to guard against such virus is to make sure that we make it our mission to keep our surroundings clean and hygienic. Viruses can’t survive if you do not give them an environment to thrive in. Go wash your hands. Cover your mouth when coughing. Go see a doc if you have flu and stay at home to minimise contagion.

The good news is that Tan Tock Seng Hospital has seen about 180 suspected MERS cases over the past three years. None have tested positive for the virus.

We cannot be complacent. We must be vigilant.

Source: Channel News Asia; The Straits Times