Year-end flu season returns as Singapore physicians report respiratory illnesses

6 min read
Year-end flu season returns as Singapore physicians report respiratory illnesses

The flu season has returned to Singapore, and physicians are reporting a 20 percent increase in instances of respiratory illness.

During the winter season, health officials overseas have warned of a “tripledemic” including concurrent epidemics of COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus.

Clinics have been scrambling to guarantee sufficient drug availability during this period, as a COVID-19 outbreak looms and more individuals are traveling and celebrating the end of the year.

In recent months, patient visits have increased by 10 to 20% at Fullerton Health, for example.

The island-wide healthcare network of over 30 clinics has observed a near doubling of influenza incidence, prompting physicians to monitor particular high-risk populations.

Dr. Ethan Lim, medical director at Fullerton Health, explained, “In the previous two years, especially among smaller children and the elderly, they have not been exposed to influenza viruses, so their immunity has been compromised.”

“Then, if you become infected with the influenza virus, you may have more severe symptoms. Of course, more vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and small children, may suffer more and develop more severe instances or even complications. Thus, these are the concerns at this moment.”

Dr. Lim noted, “demand for medicines is usually high, but we are still able to obtain all the necessary medications.”

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At Healthway Medical, the number of cases has also risen. To guarantee that its 50 clinics are prepared to handle the increased demand at the end of the year, the organization has stocked up on medication, particularly for cough, cold, and fever.

“We are always planning forward.” Dr. Teo Cheng Rong, a family physician at Healthway Medical, remarked that seasonal periods, such as the holiday seasons, are frequently accompanied by an increase in influenza and respiratory tract infection cases.

Therefore, we have sufficient pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to deal with any influenza or COVID-19 case rise.

Dr. Teo observed that there are more factors at play, such as unanticipated global shortages.

“However, we do everything we can to buffer our stock supplies, so sometimes our buyer may find different forms or sources of drugs, and this will assist us get through the period in which specific brands may be in low supply,” he said.

Doctors told CNA that supply chain concerns and a spike in patient numbers might contribute to difficulties in obtaining medical supplies.

Meanwhile, demand for influenza vaccines is strong.

Approximately 100 flu vaccines are administered each week at Phoenix Medical, compared to 20 to 30 in prior years.

According to the organisation, an increase in cross-border travel this year is a potential cause.

Dr. Chua Hshan Cher, medical director and family physician at Phoenix Medical, remarked, “With the reopening of the borders, more travelers are desirous of obtaining influenza vaccines before to departure.”

And as a result, demand has increased this year compared to, say, the previous two or three years.

Observers emphasized that travelers should continue to take measures such as practicing basic personal hygiene and using a mask when necessary.

Associate Professor Yvonne Su of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School told CNA938’s Asia First that it is crucial to have a flu shot before traveling to colder regions where influenza is rampant.

“When they visit to these countries, they may contract the viruses, which, upon their return to Singapore, might spread to the susceptible populations,” she warned.

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