HFMD may soon be an epidemic

Measures being taken to contain HFMD as disease on the rise in Singapore

SIGNS: Ulcers in the mouth are among the symptoms of HFMD. Hands must be throughly washed to prevent the spread of the disease.
SIGNS: Ulcers in the mouth are among the symptoms of HFMD. Hands must be throughly washed to prevent the spread of the disease.

Two weeks ago, Ms Wendy Phng, 28, noticed red spots on her daughter's hands and feet, and ulcers in the toddler's mouth.

Ms Phng, a property officer, said: "She was also running a fever on-and-off. I thought it was chickenpox at first.''

But a visit to the doctor on April 25 confirmed that Ms Phng's daughter had Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).

Ms Phng suspects that her only child, who is one-and-a-half, caught the virus at a gathering or the playground.

The Ministry of Health said that there were 1,052 cases two weeks ago.

Last week, there were 1,022.

These are the among the highest figures sinceOctober 2013, when 1,247 weekly cases were reported.

Infectious diseases specialist Leong Hoe Nam told The New Paper that the figures hint that we are at the "cusp of an epidemic" (see report on opposite page).

The virus is highly contagious, and this is made worse because children at childcare centres or kindergartens are in close proximity and share "everything", he added.

Ms Phng said that she and her husband swung into action, and spent a day disinfecting their home. Adults can also contract HFMD.

"Toys, floors and beds - we had to sanitise everything that she came into contact with. Up till now, we still keep the toys away because we heard that she's still contagious," said Ms Phng.

"Her rashes have dried up, but we're still keeping her away from crowds and other children for now," she added.

Administrative assistant Valerie Lim's son goes to a childcare centre in Woodlands which has seen nine cases in just over a week.

Madam Lim, 23, said she checks her son for HFMD symptoms every day. She is worried because if he catches the virus, she and her husband will have to take leave for at least a week to care for him as they do not have a helper.

"It'll be a big inconvenience but we don't have a choice.

"Perhaps we'll take alternate days off, " said Madam Lim.

Childcare centres and kindergartens across the island, with more than 10 HFMD cases, or with more than 13 per cent of students getting HFMD, and with a transmission period of more than 16 days, are put on a watch list on the MOH website.

Yesterday, four centres were on the list: Learning Vision at The Grassroots' Club, Ascension Kindergarten, PAP Community Foundation Sparkletots Preschool at Sembawang and The Little Skool House at Kent Vale.

A spokesman for NTUC First Campus, which manages The Little Skool House at Kent Vale, told TNP that "all necessary precautionary measures" are taken to detect and prevent the spread of HFMD on their campuses.

STEPPING UP MEASURES

TNP also spoke to other childcare centres and kindergartens. They say they are stepping up measures to ensure that the virus doesn't enter or spread at their centres.

These include increasing the frequency of temperature and "visual" checks and regularly disinfecting shared spaces and surfaces.

Childcare centre Acekidz Group has seen five cases in the last two weeks.

Miss Winnie Tan, 34, a teacher there, said they have started taking temperatures thrice a day instead of the usual twice, and do more thorough checks on the children's mouths, hands and feet three times daily.

The centre also washes and sanitises all surfaces the children come into contact with.

She said: "We usually do the cleaning twice a week, but we have been doing it every day since our first case (about two weeks ago)."

According to MOH guidelines, children with HFMD should stay at home and away from school until they are clear of the disease.

Operator of His Little Kingdom Childcare and Development Centre Susie Tan, 49, said her centre sees about two cases a year.

She said: "It's better to be safe than sorry with all these precious ones.

"When a child gets HFMD, not only he or she suffers, the parents are affected, and it also causes the teachers and school problems."

Toys, floors and beds - we had to sanitise everything that she came into contact with. Her rashes have dried up, but we're still keeping her away from crowds and other children for now.

- Ms Wendy Phng


BY THE NUMBERS

1,022 Number of HFMD cases last week, down from 1,052 two weeks ago. These are the among the highest figures since Oct 2013, when 1,247 weekly cases were reported.

After smashing world record, Yip Pin Xiu is now a favourite for the Paralympics

Singapore star a gold-medal favourite for Paralympic Games

As the clock ticks down to the Paralympic Games in September, excitement continues to build for Yip Pin Xiu.

The Singapore star swimmer - the country's first and only Paralympic gold medallist when she won at the 2008 Beijing Games - smashed the 100m backstroke (S2) world record at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Swimming European Open Championships in Funchal, Portugal, yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Four months before the Games in Rio de Janeiro, Yip is busy making waves, after the 24-year-old clocked 2min 9.79sec in the 100m backstroke (S2) event, nearly seven seconds under the previous world record of 2:16.31 set by Ukraine's Ganna Ielisavetska in 2014.

Ukraine's Irina Sotska claimed silver in 2:16.63, while Norway's Ingrid Thunem finished third (2:25.71).

GOOD PROGRESS

"I'm happy with my timing and I think I'm making good progress towards Rio and I'm very excited about Rio," Yip said, after her record-breaking swim.

Yip now holds two world records.

Last December, she set a new world record of 1:01.61 for the 50m backstroke (S2) at the Asean Para Games here at the OCBC Aquatic Centre and she improved the time during her race yesterday, clocking 1:01.39 at the turn to break the old mark.

Yip also set two new Asian records in Portugal.

In the 50m freestyle (S2) , her time of 1:03.82 was faster than the previous Asian mark of 1:05.47 set by China's Feng Yazhu in Sochi, Russia last year.

In the 100m freestyle (S3) final, she clocked 2:15.68, breaking Feng's record of 2:17.15 also set last year.

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Japan's Yamaguchi has no fear taking on Singapore's Lee in historic MMA fight at Indoor Stadium

Japanese fighter issues warning but Lee says historic title is not going anywhere

I feel that when people are cheering for my opponent, it gives me more power and determination to try and win. — Mei Yamaguchi (right), unfazed by the home support for Anglela Lee

It was a prelude before the actual event tonight at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, meant to generate hype and stir up the excitement.

Approximately 200 people gathered at The Cathay to witness the ONE Championship: Ascent to Power official face-off yesterday and, while there was no action among the MMA pugilists, the crowd were still entertained.

Trash-talking and mind games were on full display as the 18 fighters scheduled to square off tonight in nine bouts went up close with their respective opponents to the cheers of the crowd.

The loudest cheers, however, were reserved for the combatants in the main event - local hero Angela Lee and Japanese veteran Mei Yamaguchi.

The duo will make ONE Championship history at the Indoor Stadium as they fight to claim the first Women's Atomweight title.

It got feisty yesterday when both fighters were asked about their chances of winning the belt.

Responding to Yamaguchi's claim that the title was going to follow her back to Japan, Lee said: "I'm sorry Mei, but the title is staying in Singapore."

Despite the media fanfare and overwhelming home support for Lee, the Japanese is confident of playing the role of party-pooper.

Speaking to The New Paper after the face-off, Yamaguchi said: "It's normal for everyone in Singapore to support her because she is a local girl, but that does not matter to me.

"No matter how large the support is for her, I will still be calm because I have the "Japanese Samurai spirit" in me and I have been through this before, so I know how to react to it.

"In fact, I feel that when people are cheering for my opponent, it gives me more power and determination to try and win."

The 33-year-old, who is schooled in the disciplines of karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu and cites martial arts expert Jackie Chan as her inspiration, has also done homework on her undefeated opponent and is confident of her chances.

"Angela may have been fighting professionally for only a year but she has a lot of technique and she is also really aggressive, which is a good point.

"But sometimes she is too aggressive, which causes her to make some mistakes and I will be looking to capitalise on that tomorrow."

RECORD

Yamaguchi has a professional record of 15 wins in 24 matches in contrast to Lee, who has only five matches under her belt.

But Lee, who has won all five contests, believes her opponent's experience will not come into play in their fight.

"I am not intimidated by her record, I am very confident in my skill set and I am looking to bring the fight to her tomorrow," said the US-based fighter.

"Winning the title here would be a dream come true, it would really be a fairy tale for me.

"Not just being the first women's champion but also the youngest and to represent both Singapore and Hawaii and also to be able to fight in Singapore will be the perfect scenario for me".

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