Maintain vigilance against avian influenza A/H7N9

1.             The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) current assessment of avian influenza A/H7N9 is that it poses a low public health risk to Singapore. The risk of an outbreak in Singapore will continue to be low as long as the virus characteristics do not change. There is currently no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus. [Please see “Background” for more information.]


2.            Since the start of winter in the northern hemisphere, there had been more human cases of avian influenza A/H7N9 reported from China. As there may be increased circulation of the influenza virus in the colder months, as well as increased poultry production and mass movements of people in anticipation of the festive seasons, there may be more human cases reported overseas in the coming months. The public here is advised not to be alarmed by reports of H7N9 cases overseas.


3.            MOH is in close contact with the World Health Organization (WHO) and our counterparts internationally, and will continue to monitor the situation. Our hospitals remain vigilant to test for H7N9 and other avian influenza where clinically indicated, such as in patients with serious respiratory illness and a compatible travel history.  All suspected and confirmed cases will be isolated. In addition, the Ministry will conduct contact tracing and all close contacts will be placed under surveillance, if a case is detected.


4.            To reduce the risk of exposure to H7N9, we would like to advise Singaporeans travelling to affected areas to maintain vigilance and adopt the following general health precautions when overseas:


  • Observe good personal hygiene at all times;
  • Practise frequent hand washing (e.g. before handling food or eating, after going to toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretion after coughing or sneezing);  
  • Avoid close contact with persons suffering from acute respiratory infections (e.g. someone who is coughing);
  • Avoid contact with poultry, birds and other wild animals, and visiting live poultry markets. If contact has been made, thoroughly wash hands with soap;
  • Adopt good food safety and hygiene practices and avoid consuming under-cooked meats and eggs; and
  • Wear a mask and seek medical attention promptly if you become unwell with fever and cough while travelling in or within 2 weeks of being in any of the areas, and inform the doctor of the areas that you have travelled to.



5.            H7N9 infection is transmitted to humans by direct exposure to infected live or dead poultry or birds, or indirectly through exposure to environments contaminated by infected poultry or birds, such as in a farmyard or market setting. There is currently no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus.


6.            Singapore does not import live or raw poultry from China. Only processed poultry products which have been heat-treated to eliminate bird flu virus are allowed to be imported from accredited establishments in China.





21 JANUARY 2014


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