SEA ramps up checks at entry points following viral pneumonia outbreak in China

January 9, 2020

Southeast Asia is on high alert after Singapore reportedly registered its first case of a mysterious viral pneumonia this past week – a 3-year-old female Chinese national has been warded and isolated after developing symptoms similar to the disease, which has affected scores of people in Wuhan, China. Although a report later said that investigations and test results were “not linked to the pneumonia cluster in Wuhan,” Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said Changi Airport had begun screening travellers as of Saturday morning.

“We are monitoring the pneumonia situation in Wuhan closely. There is no evidence of people-to-people transmission, but after SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003, we cannot be complacent. It is a good occasion to remind and to exercise public health measures.”

Similarly, the Malaysian Health Ministry, advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) over the outbreak in Wuhan, is monitoring international entry points and conducting impromptu fever screenings. States have also been urged to be proactive with any cases involving pneumonia symptoms, especially if the patient had visited Wuhan recently.

In Hong Kong, which has recorded five possible cases, authorities have recently installed a thermal imaging system at its airport to check arriving passengers’ body temperature while workers have been assigned for temperature checks at the West Kowloon high-speed rail station that connects Hong Kong to the mainland.The extra caution is justified, as Hong Kong was severely affected by the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic in addition to the bird flu and swine flu outbreak in 1997 and 2009.

News sources report that most of the pneumonia cases have been traced to a food market in the suburbs of Wuhan, which offers various types of exotic meat. These could carry untold viruses, potentially deadly to humans. Pneumonia is a more serious from of influenza, and shares many of the same symptoms.


Category: Features, Health alert

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