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As Ebola spreads, we examine the most dangerous infectious diseases in Singapore

It is nearly impossible to read or watch the news today and not hear mention of Ebola. Since each new strain of Ebola that develops mutates and varies slightly from the one that preceded it, the fact remains that we still don’t know how to effectively control and contain it. While experts believe that past strains may have been lethal to as much as 90% of victims who contracted Ebola, reports stating that the current strain is “only” killing about half of infected individuals offers little solace from its danger.

Are there more pressing diseases than Ebola in Singapore?
Are there more pressing diseases than Ebola in Singapore?


It is truly tragic that the Ebola virus has wreaked havoc on large swathes of Western Africa this year, as well as affecting other countries around the globe. So far, disease containment organisations seem to be at somewhat of a loss when deciding how to react to the situation.

Nevertheless, while controlling the spread of Ebola into Singapore is of paramount importance, there are other diseases that are currently bigger health risks to the city, and numerous cases of them are reported on a monthly basis. Preparation and vigilance with the right insurance package are often even more effective at preventing sickness and loss of life than a cure, so we take a look at some of Singapore’s most common diseases so you know what to watch out for.

Dengue Fever, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever and Dengue Shock Syndrome
Mosquitoes are more than a nuisance; they also transmit some very dangerous and life-threatening viruses. Malaria has been largely contained in Singapore, however its counterpart Dengue Fever, remains a constant threat. In Singapore more than 15,000 cases have been reported in the first nine months of 2014, with three deaths directly attributed to the disease.

In most instances, Dengue Fever presents sufferers with sudden, high fevers, intense headaches, nausea, vomiting, joint and muscle aches and pains, and chills – all of which are flu-like symptoms that cause some to rule out the possibility of Dengue. Additionally, many victims experience skin rashes and some even hemorrhage from the nose, gums, and/or other orifices.

There is no cure or vaccine for the Dengue virus. Anyone concerned that they may have Dengue should seek medical assistance immediately, which may require extended hospitalisation and monitoring.

Thankfully, Dengue is not easily transmitted to other humans via direct contact. The most effective way of avoiding Dengue is to eliminate mosquito-breeding areas and take all necessary precautions to prevent chances of mosquito bites.

Influenza, or the flu as most call it, is not often thought of as a killer, though it is certainly uncomfortable. Still, recent years have seen influenza developing in ways that have made it not only more deadly, but also more contagious. Current forms are reasonably benign, with most adults only experiencing severe symptoms for several days or weeks. Children, and especially the elderly, are at higher risk, however, and should seek immediate medical attention when flu symptoms appear to be worsening.

There is no cure for the influenza virus, and hospitalisation may be required to treat the patient’s symptoms. Additionally, not seeking medical care puts the patient at risk of developing Pneumonia, which is the largest killer of children under five around the world.

Some mutated influenza strains, such as porcine flu and the varied bird flus, which haunt Asia annually, are much more deadly – killing hundreds each year when they break out. And the Spanish Flu of the early 20 Century is estimated to have killed as many as 50 million people, making it the second deadliest disease in human history after the Black Plague.

Avoiding the flu is hard to do, as it is transmitted so quickly and easily. The key is to avoid close contact with anyone with flu-like symptoms and practice very good personal hygiene.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
This disease, commonly known as HFMD, has reached epidemic proportions within Singapore over the past few years, averaging more than 22,000 cases reported annually, largely among children. While not considered fatal, though in very rare cases a patient can go into shock as a result of the infection, this virus is extremely communicable and can cause considerable discomfort to sufferers for weeks at a time.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease often causes rashes or blisters on and around patient’s hands, feet, and/or mouth and face, as well as the buttocks, though the rash can appear anywhere on the body as a result of exposure to the virus. Transmission is a result of direct exposure to an infected person’s bodily fluids such as saliva, mucus, stool, and pus that comes from rashes or blisters. Other associated symptoms often include sore throat, fever, lack of energy, and loss of appetite.

Anyone who suspects they or their children have HFMD should immediately notify their employer, the child’s school, and others they have been close to over the past week to be alert to the possibility of infection. There is no standard treatment regimen for HFMD and no cure. The best option is to get plenty of rest, fluids, light and healthy foods. Practicing excellent personal hygiene is also key.

Nearly everyone suffers from a bout of diarrhea from time to time. However severe diarrhea as a result of bacterial or viral infection can be deadly, and often strikes a large population all at once when a water-source has been compromised. Cholera is not a major concern in Singapore, but it is worth considering that long-term (several days to a week) untreated severe diarrhea can lead to exhaustion, dehydration, and loss of electrolytes, and leave the sufferer susceptible to other infections. Annual global estimates claim that diarrhea-related deaths exceed 10 million people, mostly children.

In the event of severe diarrhea, it is critical to seek medical attention and possibly hospitalization, as diarrhea is easily treatable with routine prescriptions. The most effective methods of avoiding diarrhea are good personal hygiene and avoiding suspect foods and beverages.