Singapore confirms 2 more Wuhan virus cases, bringing total to 3 infected

An isolation ward at Singapore General Hospital. More imported cases are expected given the large number of cases in China and high travel volume from China to Singapore. PHOTO: SINGAPORE GENERAL HOSPITAL
People wearing masks at SGH. The 66-year-old man from Wuhan, who is Singapore's first confirmed case, is currently in stable condition at the hospital. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

SINGAPORE - Another two people here have been confirmed to have the Wuhan virus, bringing the total to three, the Ministry of Health said on Friday (Jan 24).

The first confirmed case was a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who is here on holiday. He is currently in stable condition at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

His 37-year-old son who was travelling with him has since been confirmed to have the virus too. He is also at SGH and in stable condition.

In addition, another Chinese tourist - a 53-year-old woman from Wuhan who came separately from the two men - has been confirmed as having the virus. She is warded at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and her condition is stable.

At a briefing, the ministry said that there have been a total of 44 suspected cases with patients aged between one to 78.

Of the 44, 13 patients have tested negative for the Wuhan virus, and three are confirmed.

Contact tracing has started to identify close contacts of the three.

Close contacts will be quarantined and monitored for symptoms for 14 days from last exposure with the patient.

The ministry added that all measures will be taken to contain possible spread to the community.

But more imported cases are expected given the large number of cases in China and high travel volume from China to Singapore.

On the 53-year-old woman, health officials said she had a fever less than 24 hours after her arrival on a Scoot flight on Jan 21. She went to Raffles Hospital and was sent from there to Tan Tock Seng Hospital's (TTSH) emergency department.

She came to Singapore with one travelling companion and they were staying at J8 hotel in Townshend Road. Before she fell ill, she had visited the Orchard area, Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay. She had taken public transport to these places.

On the first confirmed case, officials said they have identified 46 people who had close contact with the 66-year-old man, who arrived on a China Southern flight on Jan 20.

Of the 46 close contacts, 24 have left Singapore.

According to The Star, eight of these were being isolated and monitored by health officers at a hotel in Johor Baru, Malaysia, for symptoms related to the virus.

Malaysia's Deputy Health Minister, Dr Lee Boon Chye, said on Friday: "They are not patients. They are just being observed in case they develop any symptoms."

Of the 22 others, 17 have been contacted, including the son. The other 16 will be quarantined and monitored for the development of symptoms for 14 days from last exposure with the patient.

Associate Professor Vernon Lee, director of Communicable Diseases at the ministry, said that close contacts are people "who are within about 2m and spend a reasonable prolonged period of time, about 30 minutes or more, with the individual".

"These are typically family members, travelling companions. They will be at a higher risk of exposure to the case. They'll be identified as close contacts and we'll quarantine them," he said.

The second tier, who are at moderate risk, are people with some contact - but neither close nor prolonged, such as encounters at public places or hotel check-in.

Assoc Prof Lee said that there is a distinction between patients who have travelled to China alone, or those who visited a hospital in China, or are a contact of a confirmed case anywhere.

For the former, if they show symptoms of pneumonia, they will be considered a suspect case. The latter, however, will be considered a suspect case once they display any symptoms of respiratory illness.

The ministry is tracing passengers on the same flights as the three confirmed cases. But Prof Lee stressed that the woman was not sick during the flight, so was unlikely to have spread the virus then.

Additional reporting by Aw Cheng Wei

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