Singapore Health Care and Vaccinations
The healthcare system in Singapore is of very high quality, generally regarded as one of the best in the world; life expectancy is high and infant mortality is low. Citizens benefit from universal healthcare, funded by compulsory savings deducted from payrolls – the money accumulates in a nationalised health insurance plan called Medisave, and can be shared across families. All health services are paid for when used, but at a subsidised rate.
Costs of medical care for those who do not participate in Medisave, such as tourists, can be very high compared to those in other parts of Southeast Asia. It is therefore important to take out appropriate travel insurance, which should include repatriation to your home country in the event of an emergency.
Call 995 if you require an ambulance. The state-run Singapore General Hospital on Outram Road (telephone: +65 6222 3322) receives emergency cases and health care is exceptionally good; private establishments include Raffles Hospital (+65 6311 1111; www.rafflesmedicalgroup.com). Pharmacies can easily be found throughout the island, particularly the Watson’s and Guardian chains – and pharmacists should be able to provide advice about minor ailments.
There is also a large private medical sector in Singapore. The quality of care, combined with prices which are usually lower than in Europe and North America, means that Singapore has become a centre for medical tourism - although in recent years cheaper countries such as Malaysia and Thailand have become more popular.
Food and Drink
Food hygiene is generally good, particularly now that most individual street stalls have been closed down in favour of hawker centres. As always it's safer to avoid raw vegetables, shellfish and reheated foods, and to wash fruit which has not been peeled. The tap water is safe to drink. Hepatitis A infection is not unknown, although rare, and vaccination may be considered.
Before leaving home, visit a doctor or travel health clinic for advice on health risks. Vaccinations against tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended.
Malaria is not a problem in Singapore, but as in many urban areas of South East Asia dengue fever can be a concern. This disease is spread by the Aedes genus of mosquito, and symptoms include a rash, fever, headaches and pain in muscles and joints. In a small percentage of cases, the disease can become life-threatening. There is no vaccine and so the risk can only be minimised by reducing exposure to mosquito bites. Covering up is a good idea, as is use of a repellent – most local brands include only citronella, so DEET-based repellent (which is generally more effective) should be brought from home if required.
There was an outbreak of the Zika virus in Singapore in August 2016. The mosquito-borne illness can be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby as well as through sexual contact. Travellers to Singapore should protect themselves from mosquito bites, pregnant women are advised to postpone non-essential travel until after pregnancy and pregnant women whose sexual partners live in or travel to areas with Zika virus transmission should follow safe sexual practices or abstain from sex for the duration of their pregnancy. Women who are pregnant, at risk of getting pregnant, or planning pregnancy should seek further advice from their doctor before travelling to Singapore.