S'pore flu cases fall

THE worst of Influenza A (H1N1) in Singapore appears to be over. The number of people going to clinics because of the flu has fallen below the epidemic level - 16,655 - for the first time in weeks.The latest figures from the Ministry of Health show a 25 per cent dive in polyclinic attendances for upper respiratory tract infections - to 15,486 last week from 20,435 the week before. At the peak two weeks ago, the clinics treated 24,477 cases in a week.

In a normal week, the polyclinics see around 13,340 patients with coughs, colds, the flu or flare-ups of chronic illnesses such as asthma. They make up one in five of the 75,000 patients seen at polyclinics for all ailments every week.

Although the falling numbers could signal the end of the first wave of H1N1, a Health Ministry spokesman said the situation was being monitored. Surveillance data shows H1N1 cases still make up half of all people suffering flu-like symptoms.

The private clinic chain, Raffles Medical Group, has noticed a significant drop in the number of patients with flu-like symptoms.

Dr Wong Wei Mon, who runs a Raffles Medical clinic in Ang Mo Kio, said he was seeing 10 per cent to 20 per cent fewer cases and expected the numbers to fall further: 'You can really feel the difference now.' However, Dr Wong said: 'Nobody knows how the H1N1 situation is going to pan out.

'But with the haze making a comeback, respiratory diseases could still be around, even though flu cases might drop.'

National University Hospital's infectious diseases head Paul Ananth Tambyah had previously told The Straits Times that, going by other pandemics, the rate of infections could be expected to slow as more people became exposed to the virus and developed immunity to it.

He added that, with well-established tests available and the experience of having dealt with the first wave of infections, Singapore was prepared to face the second one as countries in the northern hemisphere entered the traditional winter flu season.

When the second wave does hit, doctors should know how to handle the patients they get.


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