ST April 16, 2008
HFMD epidemic may be the worst since 2000
Over 1,000 kids fell ill last week, 13 warded; virulent EV71 virus behind 16% of cases By Salma Khalik & Sujin Thomas
SINGAPORE may be facing its most serious hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) outbreak since an epidemic killed seven children eight years ago.
More than 1,000 children fell ill last week - the highest number of weekly infections since the 2000-2001 period.
Of the 13 who needed hospitalisation, one girl was seriously ill, with inflammation of the brain.
..... HFMD is endemic in Singapore, with children catching the virus almost daily.
Symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat and a red rash, usually on the limbs and in the mouth, which gives the illness its name.
I just read the latest parents' newsletter from my kids' school (yes, the same one which teaches sex education to little kids). The newsletter reported that one student has just come down with HFMD.
Since HFMD is highly contagious, this means, unfortunately, that more students at the school may possibly be coming down with the illness in the next week or so. The usual incubation period is between 3 to 7 days.
I've just discussed with Mrs Wang and we decided that our little kids will get to skip school for the next few days.
Incidentally, I've often wondered whether the government has really considered the potential health implications of its ambitious population plan. I'm referring to the government's plan to increase Singapore's resident population to 6.5 million people (mainly by importing more foreigners).
There are plenty of reasons why we should be cautious about such a plan. One reason is that we live in a time where mankind seems to be constantly threatened by the likes of SARS and bird flu.
Squeeze 6.5 million people together on a little red dot. Make it the world's most densely populated country. Every day, pack a great number of citizens like sardines into the public transport system. What do you get?
Potentially, a great recipe for a massive epidemic .....