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Asia must boost health controls, Singapore says

by 5m Editor
15 January 2004, at 12:00am

SINGAPORE - Asia must invest more money to tighten public health controls and fight future outbreaks of SARS and other contagious diseases, Singapore's Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Tuesday.

Asia must boost health controls, Singapore says - SINGAPORE - Asia must invest more money to tighten public health controls and fight future outbreaks of SARS and other contagious diseases, Singapore's Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Tuesday.

The warning came as the region faced a new health scare following the death of three Vietnamese from "bird flu", a form of avian influenza that has ravaged the poultry industry, and as southern China struggled to prevent another SARS outbreak.

"There is under-investment both in developed and developing countries in this area," said Khaw, referring to the region's public health infrastructure.

Singapore should adopt Japanese-standard public hygiene practices, he added, noting that sick people should wear face masks in public. "Wearing masks when unwell to prevent spreading infection to others must become our norm," he said in a speech.

"We all need to change our daily habits."

Singapore was the world's fifth-most affected region in last year's Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak that began in southern China and infected around 8,000 people worldwide. Nearly 800 of them died, including 33 in Singapore.

It won praise from the World Health Organisation for its swift response to the outbreak, and the UN health body took the republic off its list of SARS-affected countries on May 31, a month before declaring the global outbreak over on July 5.

Khaw said the outbreak exposed gaps in public health defences but forced Singapore to strengthen its infection controls, laboratory bio-safety measures and bio-defence controls, while strengthening the hand of the WHO.

"We have now a small demonstration of what bio-terrorism may be like in the future," he said.

He said more needed to be done to ensure that public health systems were able to respond rapidly to disease outbreaks.

A Chinese doctor visiting Singapore as part of efforts by a local hospital to attract more Chinese patients to the city-state said the SARS outbreak had also improved China's hospitals.

"Even if SARS was to resurface, I am confident China will be able to control it," said Dr Huang Xunbo, a laproscopy surgeon from Shanghai.

China is now facing its second confirmed SARS case in just over a week after a 20-year-old waitress was confirmed as having SARS in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, Hong Kong's Cable Television said on Tuesday.

Source: Reuters - 13th January 2004

5m Editor