Bird flu: Changi Airport briefs airlines on health leaflets

Singapore is stepping up the fight against the H7N9 strain of bird flu and a deadly new Sars- like virus.

The Straits Times understands that on Tuesday, Changi Airport held a briefing to update airlines on plans to issue health leaflets to all travellers arriving from China and the Middle East.

This is to advise them to look out for signs and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever and coughs, and seek early medical attention if they display these symptoms.

No decision has been made on when to start distributing the leaflets, sources said.

The H7N9 virus has killed 10 people so far in China and left about 30 sick.

Global health authorities are also closely monitoring a new deadly virus from the same family as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

Nine of the 15 people confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus (NCoV) have died.

Most cases have been in the Middle East or in patients who had recently travelled to the region.

Changi's meeting with its airlines follows an H7N9 public health advisory issued by the Ministry of Health to Singapore residents last week.

A spokesman said last night that the ministry will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure public health is safeguarded. Hospitals and clinics also continue to be vigilant.

She said: "Building from our experience with Sars in 2003 and the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the Government has a whole-of-government

national crisis management system in place with plans and capabilities to deal with a pandemic if one should occur."

The World Health Organisation has not recommended travel restrictions or border controls, as there is currently no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus.

ST 20130413 P1FLU 8 3602546m

Singapore Airlines spokesman Nicholas Ionides said: "We are, however, well prepared to work with the public health authorities if the need arises."

The carrier recently provided information about H7N9 to its employees, including pilots and cabin crew. This included a reminder to staff to follow good health practices.

In a separate release yesterday, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said the country is currently free from avian influenza or bird flu.

But in the light of the situation in China, the authority has stepped up its monitoring and surveillance procedures. These include checks on imported poultry and eggs to ensure they are safe to eat.

Local slaughterhouses, poultry farms and ornamental bird farms are also being closely monitored.

The authority said: "AVA assures the public that poultry and poultry imports sold in Singapore are safe for consumption."