Mandatory tuberculosis screening for residents of 2 Jalan Bukit Merah after about 170 people test positive
SINGAPORE: Tuberculosis screening for residents and workers at Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah is now mandatory after about 170 people who were screened earlier tested positive, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (Jun 24).
The Health Ministry said in a news release that it will extend its tuberculosis screening to Jun 24 and Jun 25. This will be applicable to current and former residents of the block, as well as stallholders, shop owners and their employees.
On-site chest X-ray will also be conducted for selected residents who require further testing.
This follows an earlier round of voluntary tuberculosis screening for these individuals from May 27 to May 31.
“The extended screening exercise and further tests will be conducted free of charge. All persons living or working at the block who have not been screened for tuberculosis are required to participate in the extended screening exercise,” said MOH.
“The screening is mandatory under the Infectious Diseases Act. Persons who have been recalled for further tests will also be required to complete these tests.”
The Health Ministry added that staff members from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) have conducted visits to “non-respondent units” to engage and urge residents who had not been screened earlier to undergo screening.
Screening is not necessary for individuals who had occasionally visited the block or vicinity as the risk of transmission to persons who are transient contacts of a tuberculosis case is low.
MOH said a total of 574 out of 749 people from the block have attended the tuberculosis screening as of Thursday.
“Of these 574 people screened, about 30 per cent have tested positive for tuberculosis through blood test,” said MOH, without specifying an exact number. This translates to about 170 individuals.
The Health Ministry added that further tests are required to determine if these people have tuberculosis infection or active tuberculosis disease.
MOH said those with active tuberculosis disease will be treated while those with latent tuberculosis infection will be given appointments for follow-up at the Tuberculosis Control Unit and offered treatment if suitable.
“We have also detected one more case that is genetically linked by Whole Genome Sequencing to the cluster. Contact investigations for the new case are ongoing.”
The screening station will be located at the Queenstown Hock San Zone Residents’ Committee Centre at Block 3 Jalan Bukit Merah.
Residents who cannot attend the screening on these two days can get tested at the designated SATA Clinic (Potong Pasir Medical Centre) before Aug 5.
TUBERCULOSIS CLUSTER FIRST IDENTIFIED IN MARCH
MOH was notified on Mar 2 of seven tuberculosis cases involving residents living at Block 2, Jalan Bukit Merah. The residents were diagnosed between February 2021 and March 2022. All of them lived in different units.
Genetic analysis and links - established in April this year - revealed that all seven cases had similar genetic make-up, suggesting that they were linked by spread from one or more common sources.
However, investigations showed the cases had no links other than that they lived in the same block. They also did not know or interact with one another, or congregate in the same common areas, said the ministry.
In May, MOH said it would offer voluntary screening as a precautionary measure and "strongly encouraged" residents, stallholders, shop owners and employees of the block to participate.
According to the Health Ministry, the symptoms of tuberculosis include a persistent cough that lasts three weeks or longer, low-grade fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss and chest pain.
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.
Therefore, those who are contacted and screened following the detection of a tuberculosis individual typically comprise family members, close workplace colleagues and acquaintances from common social activities with close and regular interaction. This approach is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is practised in Singapore, said MOH.
"Tuberculosis is endemic in Singapore. Tuberculosis infection is not uncommon in Singaporeans, with the prevalence of tuberculosis infection as high as 29 per cent among those aged 70 to 79 years. Persons with tuberculosis infection do not experience symptoms of tuberculosis and are not infectious," added the ministry.
"Tuberculosis is curable and the spread of tuberculosis is preventable. Early detection and prompt treatment of cases remain important in helping those infected and rendering them non-infectious. For individuals diagnosed with TB disease, adherence to treatment is important."