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Ebola Virus Disease

HEALTH ADVISORY (JANUARY 2016)

      The Ministry of Health (MOH) has been closely monitoring the Ebola situation. In 2016, some new Ebola flares may be triggered by the persistence of the virus in survivors, as seen in the latest fatal case in Sierra Leone (15 January 2016). However, the Ministry's assessment is that the risk of spread of EVD from West Africa to Singapore has become much lower. It was previously assessed to be low due to the low volume of travel from affected countries to Singapore and the nature of transmission of the Ebola virus (through direct contact with bodily fluids of those infected).

2.    Nevertheless, before travelling to West Africa, members of the public are encouraged to refer to the MOH web page on Ebola for the latest Health Advisory. We advise travellers to maintain their vigilance and adopt the following health precautions when overseas:

  • Practise frequent hand washing (e.g. after going to toilet, or when hands are soiled); when soap and running water are unavailable, an alcohol-based hand rub can be used instead. The virus is not hardy and can easily be destroyed by such disinfectants.
  • Avoid direct contact with blood or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals, as well as objects that may have become contaminated with these infectious fluids, such as soiled clothing, bed sheets, or used needles;
  • Avoid participating in burial ceremonies which require direct contact with the body of a deceased infected person.
  • Avoid contact with wild animals, including bats, monkeys, apes, chimpanzee and gorillas, whether alive or dead, including their raw or undercooked meat;
  • Travellers who suspect that they have been exposed to Ebola virus should seek immediate medical attention if they develop EVD disease symptoms (i.e. sudden onset of high fever, stomach pains, diarrhoea, vomiting, rash or bleeding). They should inform their doctor of their recent contact history.
 

3.    MOH continues to maintain close contact with the World Health Organization (WHO) and our overseas counterparts to monitor the situation closely and ensure that public health is safeguarded. In our globalised world, we can never completely rule out the possibility of an imported case, despite the low risk of spread to Singapore. Hence, all hospitals, clinics and doctors have been alerted to stay vigilant against possible suspect cases. Our public hospitals also have in place appropriate infection control measures. Suspect cases are triaged at emergency departments, and as a precaution, isolated from other patients to minimise any risk of transmission. 

BACKGROUND

Ebola Virus Disease, formerly known as Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever is a rare disease which causes severe, often fatal illness in humans. There have been several Ebola outbreaks in Africa since the disease first appeared in 1976. Currently there is an outbreak of the disease in West Africa, which was first reported in late March 2014. 

Ebola is transmitted by direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes (eyes, mouth) with blood or body fluids (e.g. vomit, diarrhoea stools) of infected persons, or by contact with objects contaminated by blood or body fluids (e.g. soiled bed sheets). Its incubation period (the time from infection to when symptoms develop) varies from 2 to 21 days. People with the infection become infectious only when they start to show symptoms, which include the sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, joint pain, headache and sore throat. This can be followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, stomach pain, red eyes, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases bleeding. There is no proven vaccine or anti-viral drug treatment for Ebola. Severely ill patients are treated with intensive supportive care.

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