by - September 24, 2009

Remember these recommendations;

1. Wear mask if you have the infection or when looking after infected person.

2. Regular washing of hands with soap and water or alcohol based sanitizing lotion.

3. Avoid crowded places

4. Seek medical advice/ treatment when having flu like illness signs and symptoms.

The virus is spread by oral droplets that are sneezed or coughed out by infected person. If another person breathes in these droplets, they will get the virus and may end up getting the flu. Due to gravity, these droplets are limited in the distance of spread and the reason why one will not be infected if one stays beyond 3 feet from the sufferer. This is also the reason why infected person needs to wear face mask or to cover their nose/mouth when sneezing/ coughing; to prevent their oral droplets from reaching others.

Apart from the above, the oral droplets may also contaminate items such as furniture, door-knobs, stationery, etc. This is the rationale for the recommendation to regularly wash our hands with water and soap or where available, the alcohol based sanitizing lotion. We are also recommended not to touch our mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands as they may transfer the virus to these unprotected parts of the body.

The virus does not get airborne and spread by the wind or air-condition. As such there is no requirement for healthy person to wear mask except when they need to be close to infected person for long duration such as while taking care of or visiting them.

The oral droplet transmission also explains the need for everyone to avoid crowded places. The exposure will surely be more when one is in a crowd as there could be infected persons among them. It is more important for infected persons to avoid crowds as they can be the source of the virus for others. They should, as recommended impose self quarantine at home until they recover.

What about health declaration and temperature screening?

These measures are only useful during the containment period. Carriers of the virus coming into a country or premise are checked and where appropriate be referred to hospitals. However, the effectiveness of these measures is limited due to false declaration and the ability of the virus to be spread well before one gets the signs and symptoms. As has been seen, the initial measures of health declaration and temperature screening carried out by the authorities did not keep the virus out.

At present, we are well into the mitigation phase. That means we treat and isolate cases rather than trying to stop them from coming into the country/ premise. The virus is already circulating in the country with several `hot-spots'. Potential sources could be any person in the city/ town or kampong we live in. The fact that most cases were mild did not help as they went undetected while spreading the virus.

One may be infected from any of the sources, anytime. As such, it is now more effective to identify and treat infected person as quickly as possible and isolate them so as to minimize exposure to others.

What we need to do to help control the virus spread?

REMEMBER, the most important control measures are listed above. They depend on full understanding and cooperation from everyone. If all of us make conscious effort to protect ourselves and others from the virus, the transmission of the virus can be reduced. These could complement efforts by others such as the healthcare services, media, etc. in the country in controlling the pandemic.

So remember:

1. Always maintain good personal hygiene. Wash our hands regularly.
2. Avoid going to crowded places unless necessary, especially when you have the illness.
3. When you have the illness, seek medical help. Do not self medicate. If required, impose self quarantine at home. Do not come to work even if you feel you are fit to work.
4. When you have the flu or taking care of/ visit infected persons, wear the mask.

Lastly, always seek advice from professionals who know the subject and the related issues. Your nearest advisers should be the Group's or your own OPUs' Health Advisers.

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