Singapore Airlines urges ‘universal vaccination’

Image copyright John Brown Image caption Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong says staff are at “high risk” of contracting flu

Singapore Airlines is encouraging its cabin crew to undergo “universal vaccination” on board planes and on ground, due to a rise in the number of flue cases.

Flu is thought to be causing more than 9,000 hospitalisations in Singapore this season.

The airline said that staff were at “high risk” of catching flu, and that now was a “time for vaccination”, not just observation.

Singapore Airlines is reported to be the world’s most profitable airline and has more than 1,700 cabin crew.

Universal vaccination

A Singapore Airlines spokesperson told the BBC: “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and ensure all our employees are at high risk of contracting the disease as much as possible.

“The airline is currently encouraging cabin crew to follow the hygiene and take preventive measures.

“Our cabin crew are trained and are used to taking care of their health as well as others around them in different locations.

“We are at their service and ensure that they are always motivated.”

Singapore Airlines, has been recovering since last year’s flu outbreak , which saw the company cancel thousands of flights and temporarily close some areas of the airline’s terminal.

Closed runs as a precaution at Singapore’s Changi Airport and some hotels have been closed due to the number of flu cases.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the Financial Times: “I believe the policy recommendation was to provide universal vaccinations to all Singaporeans.

“I have no qualms about that.”

Image copyright AFP Image caption Singapore’s schools have also been affected by the flu epidemic

How does universal vaccination work?

In its 2012 World Health Organisation framework on public health workers, the agency said universal vaccination has been effective for high-risk groups such as health care workers.

But the agency said more research was needed to increase its effectiveness.

International regulations stipulate that vaccination of flight attendants should be done at least once every five years.

Antibiotics on board planes

The BBC spoke to passengers on a Singapore Airlines flight on Friday and only one had noticed that a nurse was checking people for flu on board.

On board, the plane’s live TV was turned off to avoid the spread of germs and any movements were under the observation of medical staff and a flight attendant, who wore gloves and a face mask.

Singapore Airlines is the world’s most profitable airline

Under World Health Organisation guidelines, the airline’s in-flight treatment should protect against flu, despite any bugs onboard.

Singapore Airlines says that it complies with WHO standards.

Dr Raymond Goh, a consultant, director of the Infectious Diseases and Primary Care Faculty at Singapore University of Technology and Design, said he did not think universal vaccination on flights would really prevent the spread of the flu virus.

“Influenza can incubate from a few days to a few weeks so it is difficult to detect early.”

Dr Goh added: “If you have a person who has symptoms that are consistent with influenza, their symptoms are not necessarily indicative of influenza but they should get treated.

“This is a matter of trust. We tell our patients when they get symptoms of flu that we are going to treat them.

“Once you lose that trust, you may be in trouble, so there has to be a balance.”

In a public statement last week, Singapore’s Health Minister Gan Kim Yong had said that the government would only limit or prevent any release of the flu virus on planes once the epidemic had peaked.

US President Donald Trump’s White House doctor said he had been getting vaccinations every year

What happens if you get the flu?

The BBC’s resident infectious disease expert, Dr James A. McGovern, said: “For healthy adults, it’s not something that would affect them in the same way that pneumonia would.”

Dr McGovern also pointed out that flu is a virus that would not be killed by a vaccine, but rather it would target the immune system.

Vaccines target the flu virus, so the vaccine needs to be very specific.

The last production runs for the flu vaccine for 2018/19 has now been made, and we are now waiting for results to see if the flu will be widespread.

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