We describe the public health control measures implemented in Singapore to limit the spread of influenza A (H1N1-2009) and mitigate its social effects. We also discuss the key learning points from this experience. Singapore’s public health control measures were broadly divided into 2 phases: containment and mitigation. Containment strategies included the triage of febrile patients at frontline healthcare settings, admission and isolation of confirmed cases, mandatory Quarantine Orders (QO) for close contacts, and temperature screening at border entry points. After sustained community transmission became established, containment shifted to mitigation. Hospitals only admitted H1N1-2009 cases based on clinical indications, not for isolation. Mild cases were managed in the community. Contact tracing and QOs tapered off, and border temperature screening ended. The 5 key lessons learnt were: (1) Be prepared, but retain flexibility in implementing control measures; (2) Surveillance, good scientific information and operational research can increase a system’s ability to manage risk during a public health crisis; (3) Integrated systems-level responses are essential for a coherent public health response; (4) Effective handling of manpower surges requires creative strategies; and (5) Communication must be strategic, timely, concise and clear. Singapore’s effective response to the H1N1-2009 pandemic, founded on experience in managing the 2003 SARS epidemic, was a whole-of-government approach towards pandemic preparedness planning. Documenting the measures taken and lessons learnt provides a learning opportunity for both doctors and policy makers, and can help fortify Singapore’s ability to respond to future major disease outbreaks.
The novel influenza A(H1N1) outbreak was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 June 2009. We describe the public health control measures instituted in Singapore to limit the spread of H1N1-2009 and mitigate its effects on our society.
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