Wuhan virus: Mindef issues two advisories for service personnel

Passengers arriving at Changi Airport Terminal 3 from a Hangzhou flight go through a thermal scanner on Jan 22, 2020. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - In response to the growing outbreak of a mysterious Wuhan virus that has already infected nearly 600 people and killed at least 17 in China, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has disseminated two medical advisories to its service personnel earlier this month, it told The Straits Times on Thursday (Jan 23).

The first advisory, issued on Jan 3, instructed service personnel with flu-like symptoms to seek medical attention and highlight their travel history to their unit medical officers.

This was reiterated in the second advisory disseminated on Tuesday, which also included reminders for personnel to remain vigilant, adopt good personal hygiene measures and regularly check the websites of the Ministry of Health when travelling overseas.

"Both medical advisories are in addition to the current temperature-taking regime in the Singapore Armed Forces to detect soldiers who are unwell before training," Mindef said.

"Soldiers with temperatures above 37.5 deg C will be sent for medical evaluation."

As of Wednesday, the Chinese authorities have confirmed 571 cases of infection, while nine cases have been reported outside of mainland China. Thailand has four, while the United States, Taiwan, Macau, South Korea and Japan have one each.

The Wuhan virus is believed to have originated from wild animals sold illegally at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in the capital city of Hubei. Symptoms include fever, cough or chest tightness and difficulty breathing.

The virus belongs to the same family of coronavirus as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) virus, which infected more than 8,000 people worldwide and killed almost 800 in 2003. Of these, 33 were Singaporeans.

During the Sars epidemic, Mindef had also introduced precautionary measures including disseminating information on the virus, tips on personal hygiene, travel advisories and procedures for handling suspected Sars cases.

Additionally, personal thermometers were issued to all service personnel, with a twice-daily, temperature-checking regime implemented.

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