TB cases in Ang Mo Kio: Astute of Tan Tock Seng Hospital doctor to identify cluster, says MP Koh Poh Koon

Residents at Blk 203 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 were encouraged to undergo a free tuberculosis screening from June 16 to 19 after six of their neighbours were diagnosed with the same drug-resistant strain in the past four years.
Residents from Block 203, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, undergo health screening at the void deck on Thursday (June 16).
Residents from Block 203, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, undergo health screening at the void deck on Thursday (June 16).ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
A file photo of Dr Cynthia Chee Bin Eng, senior consultant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital's TB Control Unit, taken in 2007.
A file photo of Dr Cynthia Chee Bin Eng, senior consultant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital's TB Control Unit, taken in 2007.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN FILE
Mr Ng Kim Beng, 67, undergoing an X-ray screening in a medical services bus at the carpark on Thursday (June 16).
Mr Ng Kim Beng, 67, undergoing an X-ray screening in a medical services bus at the carpark on Thursday (June 16).ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
MP for Ang Mo Kio Dr Koh Poh Koon (right) visits residents at Block 203, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, on Thursday (June 16).
MP for Ang Mo Kio Dr Koh Poh Koon (right) visits residents at Block 203, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, on Thursday (June 16). ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - It was "very astute" of Dr Cynthia Chee to join the dots and identify the tuberculosis cluster in Ang Mo Kio, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Koh Poh Koon told reporters on Thursday (June 16) morning.

"All of us see many patients on a daily basis and it's quite amazing how she connected six patients over a four-year period," he said. "This was a very astute observation and credit must be given to her."

Dr Chee, of Tan Tock Seng Hospital's TB Control Unit, had realised that someone diagnosed with the same strain of multi-drug resistant TB lived in the same block as five earlier cases, and informed the Health Ministry.

 

On Thursday, ministry officials were working with Sata CommHealth to screen residents from Block 203 along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 as a precautionary measure.

 

This is because doctors were unable to find out how the same strain of TB spread between the six people, who lived in four different units and said they did not know one another.

 

As of 5pm on Thursday, about 70 residents and former residents of  the block had been screened on-site for TB, the Ministry said in an update. Residents will be informed of their screening results within two weeks, it said. 

"MOH public health officers and grassroots leaders have engaged more than half of the households by going door-to-door. We will continue to do so tonight," a MOH spokesperson said on Thursday night. 

Dr Koh, who is also Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, was there to speak to residents earlier in the day.

Residents from the 160-unit block began trickling in just after 9am, although few seemed to be anxious about the situation.

"Sometimes I hear my neighbour coughing a lot, but I don't talk to him so I'm not worried," said retiree Khoo Bah Tee, who lives on the 10th floor and came for screening with his wife at around 10.30am.

On Wednesday night, grassroots volunteers, officers from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Dr Koh knocked on the doors of residents to inform them of the situation, which MOH described as "highly unusual".

In a Facebook post on Thursday morning, Dr Koh wrote: "Visited residents with grassroots volunteers last night and spent some time in their homes to share with them educational information about TB and encouraged them to participate in the free screening offered by MOH at their void deck over the next 4 days.

"This is more of a precautionary measure to protect and reassure everyone. While it is not mandatory, I encouraged them to participate so they can have a greater sense of well-being."