From 17 to 23 April this year, there were 1,052 cases of HFMD reported, which is the highest number of weekly cases reported since October 2013’s 1,247, as reflected from the Ministry of Health (MOH) figures.
The numbers started to increase back in mid-February, where 587 cases were reported. It rose to 756 two weeks later and then went above 900 in early march. By 23 April, the number hit its current high with 12,166 cases reported to MOH so far, compared to the 8,835 number of cases that were reported between January and April last year.
Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital’s Leong Hoe Nam, who is also an Infectious disease expert said the upward trend will probably continue in the next two to three weeks, and would lead to an epidemic.
He said: “The number that exceeds 1,000 is very significant: it tells us that many people have not been exposed to (the virus). We have a fresh group of people getting exposed to it and in turn this 1,000 will spread easily to another 1,000 to 2,000 people.”
He also pointed out that the current strain is not life-threatening and that he thinks “this is going to be an epidemic; if not we are already at the threshold of a new epidemic.”
HFMD can be spread through direct contact with bodily fluids such as saliva. Children under the age of 5 are more prone in getting HFMD, although the chances of both adults and children contracting the virus are the same.
Childcare centres have stepped up hygiene standards to deal with the problem. Such centres are Tai Pei childcare centres where a total of 14 HFMD cases were reported since 2 Mar. Half of the children that were affected were below 3-years-old. Tai Pei has been clear of HFMD since 15 April.
Tai Pei’s principal, Drolma Teh told Channel NewsAsia: “To stop the chain of transmission, sterilisation is very important. We even have to sterilise stationery. Usually, we only sterilised the common areas. Children’s belongings like toys are sterilised once they’ve been played with. Everything that they touch, even charts and the walls along the corridor, are all sterilised.”
She added that children temperature taking and health check ups are conducted up to three times daily, as compared to twice before the outbreak.
Childcare centres with more than 10 HFMD cases, or more than 13% of the enrolment contracting the virus and a transmission period of more than 16 days are put on MOH website’s watchlist.
There are currently four childcare centres on the watchlist. Namely, PCF Sparkletots Preschool at Sembawang, PCF Sparkletots Preschool at Paya Lebar, The Little Skool-House at Kent Vale and MY World at Woodlands Circle.
PAP Community Foundation told Channel NewsAsia that several cases were reported at PCF at Sembawang and PCF at Paya Lebar centres. Most of the children affected have recovered and no new cases have been reported at the two mentioned centres since 20 April.
They added: “During outbreaks of infectious diseases, our centres would immediately increase the frequency of such precautionary measures and activate additional steps such as suspending large group activities to minimise contact between children, and where necessary, engage professional cleaners to disinfect the premises.”
Madam Wong (not her real name) has a 6-year-old daughter who attends PCF Sparkletots at Paya Lebar said that the school could have done more to prevent the spread of HFMD. Her daughter was diagnosed with HFMD on 19 April.
“The school should take precautionary measures and ensure the premises is clean.”
Source: Channel NewsAsia