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Precautionary tuberculosis screening for some Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre patrons after 18 cases detected: MOH

Precautionary tuberculosis screening for some Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre patrons after 18 cases detected: MOH

File photo of a Singapore Pools outlet. (Photo: Francine Lim)

SINGAPORE: Precautionary tuberculosis screening will be conducted for certain patrons of Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre after 18 cases were detected through retrospective testing, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Wednesday (Jan 20).

The health ministry said it has been notified of two “genetically separate” clusters involving a total of 18 people diagnosed with tuberculosis who had prolonged exposure at the Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre.

"The cases had immediately started treatment following diagnosis and are not a current ongoing public health risk," said MOH, adding that the risk of transmission to people who are not close contacts is very low.

As a precautionary measure, officers from the Singapore TB Elimination Programme (STEP) will be contacting patrons who visited Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre between Feb 12 and Mar 25 last year for screening.

Screening will be conducted free of charge at the Tuberculosis Control Unit (TBCU) at 142 Moulmein Road.

Voluntary screening will also be offered to former patrons who spent prolonged durations, which MOH defined as "cumulatively days", at the Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre to watch live horse-racing telecasts between 2018 and Mar 25, 2020.

Patrons who wish to be screened may call the TBCU hotline at 6258 4430, said the health ministry.

In line with the health ministry’s tuberculosis prevention strategy, officers from STEP had earlier initiated contact investigations upon notification of each of the cases.

Close contacts of all the 18 cases had already been identified and contacted by STEP for screening, said MOH.

The two clusters were determined by genetic sequencing and epidemiological investigations which concluded in January 2021, as part of retrospective testing of tuberculosis cases to determine linkages. The 18 cases were diagnosed between February 2015 and October 2020.

NO COMMON LINKS ASIDE FROM SINGAPORE POOLS

The link among five cases diagnosed between July 2018 and February 2020 was established and MOH said it was notified of the cluster on Jul 28, 2020.

The 13 cases in the second cluster, who were diagnosed between February 2015 and October 2020, were notified to MOH between Dec 1, 2020 and Jan 11, 2021.

The health ministry said investigations into the cases did not reveal any common links, other than that they had all frequently visited the Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre over a period ranging from months to years and spent prolonged durations at the centre watching live horse-racing telecasts.

The cases did not know each other, and had not identified each other as close contacts.

While screening is not compulsory, MOH strongly encouraged these individuals to be screened.

Those with positive screening results will be offered appropriate advice and follow-up. Those with active tuberculosis will be treated immediately while those with latent non-infectious tuberculosis will be monitored and treated if necessary.

MOH said screening for individuals who had visited the Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre or its vicinity, but did not spend prolonged time watching horse-racing telecasts, is assessed to be unnecessary due to the very low risk of transmission posed to such individuals.

The health ministry said tuberculosis is typically spread through close and prolonged contact with an infectious individual, and not by contact with items or surfaces touched by an infected person.

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, added MOH.

Tuberculosis is endemic in Singapore and latent tuberculosis infection is not uncommon here, as tuberculosis has been prevalent in Singapore until the 1970s and older Singaporeans could have been exposed to tuberculosis and acquired latent tuberculosis infection when they were younger.

People with latent tuberculosis do not experience symptoms of TB and are not infectious, said MOH.

"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 active tuberculosis, adherence to treatment is important."

Source: CNA/zl(ac)

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