- POSTED: 02 Oct 2013 13:20
- UPDATED: 03 Oct 2013 00:08
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Some 300 National Service recruits at the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) on Pulau Tekong went down with gastrointestinal problems last week due to a norovirus infection.
SINGAPORE: Some 300 National Service recruits were hit by an ailment commonly known as gastric flu last week.
The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said the incident happened at the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) on Pulau Tekong.
The recruits experienced gastrointestinal problems over a period of seven days.
They reported symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting. MINDEF's investigations show the likely cause to be Norovirus. It said most of the affected soldiers recovered after one to two days.
A Ministry of Health spokesman explained that Norovirus Gastroenteritis (gastric flu) is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by Norovirus, resulting in vomiting, diarrhoea or cramps.
Doctors said the virus is spread through what is known as faecal contamination.
Dr Thiow Boon Yin, a family doctor, explained: “For example, if someone has this illness and (is) vomiting and having diarrhoea...they do not wash their hands clean, sometimes some of the faecal matter may be present in their hands and it may contaminate some of the surfaces they (touch)." She added that the virus may remain on the surfaces for a few days.
Dr Rahul Goswami, a consultant emergency physician at Changi General Hospital, added: "The most probable cause of a virus outbreak such as Norovirus is transmission via hand-to-hand droplet or aerosol spreading.
"General precautionary measures include limiting person-to-person spread via proper hygiene and good hand-washing practices, isolating patients, cleaning surfaces, and of course, determining the source of the outbreak.
"Aerosol spreading refers to infection transmitted from one individual to another through sneezing or coughing."
Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, Changi General Hospital said 37 recruits sought treatment at its Accident & Emergency department on September 29 and all of them were treated and subsequently discharged.
None had been admitted to hospital.
Following the incident, MINDEF said the cookhouse premises and food handlers at BMTC were tested and determined not to be the source of the Norovirus infection.
Food and water at the BMTC also tested negative.
As a precautionary measure, the common areas have been cleaned and disinfected, while training at the swimming pool has been put on hold temporarily.
Commanders have emphasised to all recruits and staff at BMTC the importance of maintaining personal hygiene.