SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Friday (Dec 8) that the Tuberculosis Control Unit has identified 110 “close contacts” of the staff member at the Agape Little Uni pre-school who was diagnosed with active tuberculosis last month.
MOH's comments, made in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, follow media reports that students at the child care centre and kindergarten at Sengkang East Way had been screened for tuberculosis after a staff member was diagnosed with the disease.
Of the 110 individuals identified as close contacts of the staff member, 91 have completed the first round of screening and 19 are pending evaluation or test results, MOH said.
"To date, none of the children and staff have been diagnosed with active tuberculosis," it added.
MOH and the Tuberculosis Control Unit were notified of the staff member's diagnosis on Nov 27, it said. The individual was given immediate treatment and put on medical leave for two weeks.
The Tuberculosis Control Unit conducted a site visit on Nov 28 to identify close contacts for follow-up screening. It has also been actively working with Agape Little Uni to reach out to the parents of children assessed to be close contacts, to share further information regarding tuberculosis screening and treatment.
Tuberculosis is typically spread through close and prolonged contact with an infectious individual, and not by contact with items or surfaces touched by a person with tuberculosis.
Only those assessed by the Tuberculosis Control Unit to have had close and prolonged contact with the infectious individual will require screening, MOH said.
"There is no need for work places or other places where the active TB case has visited to be closed. Early detection and treatment through screening of close contacts can help prevent further spread of TB.
"As patients would be on medical leave and started on treatment, there would be no risk of further exposure to workplace contacts once the diagnosis is made. Workplace or classmate contacts found to have latent TB infection are also not infectious," MOH said.
MOH added that screening consultation and tests are offered free-of-charge to close contacts identified by the Tuberculosis Control Unit. Under the national tuberculosis programme, the cost of medication for both latent and active tuberculosis is also fully subsidised.
Tuberculosis is endemic in Singapore and latent tuberculosis is not uncommon as the disease was prevalent in Singapore until the 1970s.
Among older Singaporeans, MOH said, up to 30 per cent may have a latent tuberculosis infection. In the majority of cases, the tuberculosis bacteria remains inactive in their body throughout their lives, and they do not spread tuberculosis to others.