In the past few days, we have seen the Swine Flu situation escalate.
Singapore has twice upgraded the alert state (from green to yellow to orange) and the next upgrade to Red could come very soon.
The World Health Organisation pandemic alert is at Phrase 5 indicating human-to-human spread in more than 2 countries has already taken place. Phrase 6 would mean a full pandemic is underway. From today, they will refer to this new strain of virus as influenza A(H1N1).
As of now, laboratory confirmed cases are in the following countries:
These numbers continue to change rapidly. You can obtain the latest news on the situation at the WHO Influenza A (H1N1) website.
While the virus at the moment is not as deadly as SARs, it is much more infectious. One point is that an infected person can transmit the virus even before he shows signs or symptoms. This makes containment almost impossible.
Thus, it is not a question of whether Singapore will have its first case, but more a question of when.
And until the virus has been mitigated, it could affect a number of downstream businesses badly.
For now, all non-essential travel to affected areas should be avoided. We should also practice good personal hygiene such as washing our hands frequently with soap and water at all times.
A special dedicated ambulance hotline 993 (instead of 995) has also been set aside for any suspected cases.
The more frightening thing is that historically, flu pandemics come in waves. After the first wave of attack and all seems to be fine, it comes back a few months later in a more dangerous form.
Whether that will happen remains to be seen.
In the meantime, healthcare bodies scramble to produce vaccines and test-kits for this new strain of flu.
The race has begun.