Step up systems to identify spread of disease

Kudos to Dr Cynthia Chee, who alerted the health authorities regarding the outbreak of tuberculosis in an Ang Mo Kio block ("Doc linked six TB cases over four-year period"; last Friday).

I dread to think what might have happened if this mini outbreak had not been spotted and curtailed.

We may not be so lucky next time.

Together with the hepatitis C outbreak ("21 patients at SGH hit by hepatitis C; MOH orders probe"; Oct 7, 2015), this is a stark reminder against complacency in our battle against infectious diseases.

This is an opportune time for the health authorities to strengthen the system to identify disease pattern and spread.

Perhaps, the health authorities should work with physicians to gather and study information that could show patterns in the spread of infectious diseases.

Information could include the places a patient has been to or the treatment he has undergone.

Computer systems are good in elucidating patterns.

Every time an infectious disease is diagnosed, there is a source, and it behoves the health authorities to identify it.

Ng Pau Ling

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Step up systems to identify spread of disease'. Print Edition | Subscribe