As from today, they have stopped taking temperatures at the checkpoints because the H1N1 virus is now considered endemic ie it is prevalent within our society. There is no point in trying to prevent the virus from getting into Singapore since it is already spreading around within the country.
So, what can you do to protect yourself and your family?
The most important thing is of course to take the necessary precautions. Basic things like avoiding crowded places, eating healthy foods like lots of fruits and vegetables and doing regular excercise will go a long way to keep your immune system in it's peak condition.
In addition, there are some vaccines which you might want to give your loved ones.
The first one is quite obvious and that is the Flu Vaccine. Many patients have asked me why they should take the Flu Vaccine even though it does not specifically protect against H1N1. Well, the way I see it, if you happen to get the seasonal flu now, the symptoms are exactly the same as the H1N1 flu and it might still result in home quarantine for a week. At the moment, it is not compulsory to send every suspect case of H1N1 to TTSH anymore. So if you have Flu-like symptoms and it is not serious, then you will be simply sent home with 1 week MC. So as you can see, even having the seasonal flu is going to mean a lot of disruption to your life.
The second and perhaps not so obvious is the Pneumococcal vaccine. Recent studies have looked at the real cause of death in the Flu pandemic of 1918 and the evidence is that many of the deaths were caused not by the Flu virus itself but by secondary infection caused by Bacteria like Pneumoccocus.
What happens is that the Flu Virus enters the body and damages the lung tissue. This is like "tilling the soil", making it very easy for Bacteria to then infect the tissues. Pneumococcus is the major cause of Pneumonia and in many cases, the Flu Virus creates the condition where it is very easy for Pneumococcus to come in and cause a full blown pneumonia and eventually death.
So another thing you can do for your family is to vaccinate them against Pneumococcal disease. There are currently two such vaccines in the market. One is specifically for children from birth to 9 years of age. Kids, especially babies are most susceptible to this Bacteria which often cause really devastating disease and death. The good news is that this is preventable. In fact, in 42 countries around the world including US, UK and Australia, the pneumococcal vaccine is already administered to babies as part of the National Immunization Program. However, in Singapore, it is still an optional vaccine.
It is important to realise that by vaccinating your kids, you are in fact reducing the chances of the bacteria circulating within your family circle so the chances of the elderly getting the bacteria is reduced.
For elderly folks, there is also a pneumoccocal vaccine which can be administered to prevent pneumonia. This vaccine is in fact recommended by MOH for those 65 and above. One vaccination will last for 5 years.
We got good news. Although Flu Vaccines are short in supply, we just managed to get another lot in. So if you are wanting to vaccinate your family, you should come soon to the clinic. The pneumococcal vaccines for both kids and the elderly are also available.