• Vol. 39 No. 4, 325–327
  • 15 April 2010

International Health Regulations: Lessons From the Influenza Pandemic in Singapore



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Introduction: Singapore’s defense against imported novel influenza A (H1N1-2009) comprised public health measures in compliance with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Health Regulations (IHR), 2005. We report herein on the epidemiology and control of the first 350 cases notified between May and June 2009.

Materials and Methods: We investigated the first 350 laboratory-confirmed cases of novel influenza A (H1N1-2009) identified from the healthcare institutions between 27 May and 25 June 2009. Epidemiological details of these cases were retrieved and analysed. Contact tracing and active case finding were also instituted for each reported case, and relevant particulars including flight information were provided to WHO and overseas counterparts.

Results: The first 350 novel influenza A (H1N1-2009) cases comprised 221(63%) imported cases, 124 (35%) locally acquired cases and 5 (2%) cases with unknown source. The imported cases consisted of three waves involving the United States (US), Australia and Southeast Asia. In the first wave, 11 (69%) of the 16 imported cases had visited the US within seven days prior to their onset of illness between 25 May and 4 June 2009. In the second wave, 20 (74%) of the 27 imported cases between 5 June and 12 June had travelled to Melbourne, Australia. In the third wave, 90 (51%) of the 178 imported cases between 13 June and 25 June were acquired from intra-regional travel in Southeast Asia. Specifically, 49 cases were from the Philippines and 40 (82%) of them had travelled to Manila. A total of 667 communications were effected through the IHR mechanism; a majority within 24 hours of disease notification.

Conclusion: Singapore experienced an unprecedented need for international cooperation in surveillance and response to this novel Influenza A (H1N1-2009) pandemic. The IHR mechanism served as a useful channel to engage in regional cooperation concerning disease surveillance and data sharing, but requires improvement.

By virtue of the International Health Regulations (IHR) which came into force on 15 June 2007, countries are required to report specific infectious diseases and public health events to the World Health Organization (WHO). The first novel Influenza A (H1N1) patient in the US was confirmed by laboratory testing at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on 15 April 2009.

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