No isolation of Zika patients in Singapore going forward: Health Minister

Health

SINGAPORE: The Republic will no longer be isolating patients who have contracted the Zika virus as the method is “no longer very effective”, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Monday (Sep 5).

In an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia, Mr Gan said when his ministry first discovered the Zika cluster, it was not certain of the extent, whether there was already large-scale transmission. Therefore, it was important for them to isolate patients then to prevent further spread even as investigations were carried out.

MOH was also not sure whether the Zika cases in Singapore were likely to have very severe symptoms that will create medical conditions and problems, so it decided to hospitalise them first before deciding what to do with them, he explained.

Currently, though, there are three Zika clusters and a number of isolated cases in other parts of Singapore, and therefore MOH has to work on the basis that there are cases transmitting in other parts of Singapore, Mr Gan said.

“Also bearing in mind that there are 80 per cent of our infected patients do not have symptoms and therefore they are not treated by our doctors. Just isolating 20 per cent of our symptomatic patients has very limited effect,” he added. “Therefore, isolation will no longer be very effective.”

The Health Minister added that having seen the cases so far, most of them have been mild and, in fact, many of them recovered “within one or two days”.

For patients who are confirmed positive with Zika, MOH will no longer hospitalise them unless their condition is “severe or unless they have other conditions that require medical attention”, Mr Gan said, adding that they will be given appropriate advice to protect themselves and with the necessary precautions.

SUBSIDIES FOR ZIKA TESTING

The Health Minister also said that his ministry will have to focus its testing beyond known clusters. “Now we have to work on the basis that there are patients and cases in other parts of Singapore, and therefore we want to provide subsidy for Zika testing even for those who are not associated with existing clusters,” Mr Gan said.

On Monday evening, the Health Ministry announced that from Sep 7, it will extend subsidies for the Zika test to all Singaporeans with Zika symptoms.
For subsidised patients at the public healthcare institutions, they will pay a subsidised rate of S$60 if they have Zika symptoms regardless of where they live, work or study. Patients who need the test but cannot afford it can approach the medical social worker for assistance, such as from Medifund, said MOH.

For private patients in the public healthcare institutions, and patients at private clinics and private hospitals, they will pay the full cost of S$150 for the Zika test.

Mr Gan also reiterated that for pregnant women who are symptomatic, they will receive free testing in public healthcare institutions. For those who choose to go to private clinics for testing, they will also receive a free laboratory test, but they will have to pay for the consultation fee, he added.

“I think this will provide a higher level of assurance for these women who have symptoms.” Mr Gan said.

FOCUS IS ON VECTOR CONTROL 

Going forward, the Health Minister said it is more important to focus on vector control, as the virus is spread primarily by Aedes mosquito.

“We have always expected Zika to come to Singapore, so we have involved a three-pronged strategy to help us with Zika,” he said. “The first is surveillance … the second is detection and identification of clusters and managing them. We have been doing that so far.

“The third strategy is to work on long-term management of the disease. Zika is very difficult to eradicate totally from Singapore, primarily because we have a presence of Aedes mosquitoes here. Therefore we need to work a long-term strategy in managing Zika in Singapore, and the primary focus is, of course, vector control,” Mr Gan said.

[Source:-Channel News Asia]