Health Ministry monitoring flu situation in China and India closely

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Friday that it has been monitoring the situation in China and India closely, as the countries grapple with avian flu and swine flu outbreaks respectively.

A MOH spokesman noted that that the characteristics of the avian flu H7N9 in China has not changed since 2013, and human to human transmission remains rare.

China has closed live poultry trade markets and put government departments on alert, after the H7N9 bird flu virus struck over winter, killing at least 61 people this year. There were 152 cases of H7N9 from Jan 1 to March 5, China News Service reported this week.

Meanwhile, the strain of H1N1 swine flu from India is the same one that has been circulating around the world, including Singapore, since 2009. It is not a mutated strain, said the spokesman.

India has seen an increase in the number of swine flu cases this year to more than 26,000, resulting in 1,482 deaths and testing the government's ability to cope with any deadly new strains.

The MOH spokesman said the seasonal influenza vaccine contains the H1N1 strain, and is effective against it.

MOH advised the public to consult their family doctor to check if they need to be vaccinated against influenza before they travel. Generally, children aged below five, the elderly and persons with chronic medical conditions are advised to be vaccinated annually against influenza, its spokesman said.

It also advised the public to avoid visiting poultry markets when travelling to China. Travellers to China and India should visit their family doctors if they fall sick when they return, but here is no need to report to the authorities, said its spokesman.