30 January 2020
Changes at University Health Centre (UHC)
Since Jan 10, UHC has put in place additional preventive measures such as having fever checks at the main entrance, including students seeing counsellors.
Staff who are conducting the temperature screening don full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – cap, N95 mask, gown and gloves.
You will also find that you have to follow a certain flow once inside the clinic – this is to minimise possible cross infection. There is now only one entrance and exit at the clinic.
Patients with fever, flu symptoms and a history of recent travel to mainland China are directed to a “negative-pressure isolation room” (see pix) which prevents contaminated air from escaping the room. In there, a duty doctor in full PPE, will attend to them.
The room is disinfected after each consultation.
Patients’ requests are also changing. In recent days, students have been asking for unnecessary chest X-rays and blood tests to check if they have contracted the coronavirus.
Please don’t do either of these things.
Diagnostic test kits specific to the coronavirus are only available at local hospitals.
And X-rays or blood tests for other conditions will be ordered only if deemed necessary by the doctor.
Many students have also demanded face masks at UHC.
Patients who do not display respiratory symptoms do not receive a face mask at UHC. To be clear, UHC does not give out masks – and unless you are sick, you don’t need one.
What we know about the Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Here’s what we know about the Wuhan virus so far. Both SARS and 2019-nCOV belong to the coronavirus family of viruses. As of 30 Jan 2020, 7:47 a.m., there are 7,711 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV reported in China.
The case-fatality (CF) rate (or those who die) from the Wuhan virus hovers around 3%. In comparison, the CF rate for SARS was about 10%. However, we do not know if the infected person is infectious during the incubation or not. Fever may not be a reliable sign of the virus.
In short, there’s a lot we don’t know about the virus. But controlling its spread requires both public health and medical measures as well as an ability to discern between real or fake news and take the appropriate actions.
The power of placebo
Still, there is room for personal talismans. My friends believe in the power of essential oils and over the past three days, I have been given five bottles of Thieves – a mix of oils including Lemon, Eucalyptus and Rosemary.
The story behind the concoction dates to a 15th Century plague where a group of thieves robbed the corpses of plague victims but never contracted the disease themselves.
Legend has it that the thieves had applied the oils on themselves to ward off the deadly disease. In their minds, they believe themselves to be protected from the plague. Apparently it worked. It could be the oils, it could be the believing – but I thought, “What’s the harm?”
And drippled five drops into the SSC diffuser.
It smells pretty good, but like the UHC, don’t visit us unless you have to. Stay safe, have fun in your classes, and go out into the sun. It’s a great disinfectant.
A/P Leong Ching
NUS Dean of Students