SINGAPORE: Some samples of raw fish were tested and found to have traces of the Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria, the Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said in a joint news release on Friday (Jul 24).
This comes after MOH launched an investigation into the link between GBS and raw fish after it saw an increase in GBS cases.
From Jan 1 to Jun 30, authorities received reports of 238 GBS cases from public hospitals. This is up from an average of 150 cases per year in the past four years. More than half the cases were over the age of 55, similar to previous years.
Authorities earlier said there is no proven link between eating raw fish and serious GBS disease in healthy humans, but interim analysis of MOH's investigation on a limited number of identified cases found an association between the consumption of raw fish and GBS infections. More cases will need to be studied for a more definite conclusion, authorities noted.
NEA has advised licensed food stall holders to temporarily stop the sales of raw fish dishes using Song fish, also known as Asian Bighead Carp, and Toman fish, also known as Snakehead fish, as a precautionary measure. Stall holders will also be reminded to adhere to high standards of personal hygiene and adopt proper food handling practices to prevent cross contamination and bacterial growth, the agencies stated.
Earlier, MOH had asked all hospitals to submit their case listings of patients with GBS infections for this year as part of its investigation. Doctors in the private sector were also asked to report new cases of GBS infection to MOH as well, to assist in its probe.
Authorities added that GBS is a common bacterium found in the human gut and urinary tract of about 15 to 30 per cent of adults without causing disease. However, it may occasionally cause infection of the skin, joints, heart and brain. GBS can be found in fish, but it does not pose an issue if the fish is well-cooked before consumption, MOH said.
Some GBS patients told Channel NewsAsia after consuming yusheng, their joints swelled to the point where they required surgery.
While investigations are ongoing, vulnerable groups of people - especially young children, pregnant women or the elderly, or people with chronic illness such as diabetes - should exercise caution by avoiding raw ready-to-eat food, authorities said.