Forum: Include how to strengthen immunity in national advisory

I applaud the Ministry of Health (MOH) for its well-coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak.

I am surprised, however, that strengthening of the immune system does not feature in any of the recommendations by MOH (Singapore raises coronavirus outbreak alert to orange: What does it mean?, ST Online, Feb 7).

Despite the lack of a cure and vaccine for the virus, most victims recover or have mild symptoms, while many who died had pre-existing medical conditions or were elderly.

This points to the central role of a strong immune system in keeping the virus at bay.

Public advisories should, therefore, highlight the importance of a strong immune system, on top of existing advice on personal hygiene and minimising contact.

Ways to build immunity should be communicated. These include having sufficient sleep, eating adequate vegetables and fruits, avoiding sugar-rich and fried foods, having a calm and positive mind, and exercising regularly.

Sleep, for example, has been shown to be the time when immune cells can most effectively attack viruses in the body.

Yet, studies show Singaporeans are among the most sleep-deprived in the world.

In the long run, we hope a vaccine for the virus will be found. But a vaccine is simply a tool to boost our immunity against the virus.

As we continue to grapple with this problem, it is not too late for MOH to advise people to arm themselves with the motivation and knowledge to build a strong immune defence against viruses.

Elena Dogarel (Dr)

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