TB cases in Ang Mo Kio: Worried residents say they'll get screened

Residents' committee members and Health Ministry officials visiting Mr Bu Qing Liang (in grey), 48, at his home in Block 203, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, yesterday. All residents of the block are being urged to go for a free TB screening that will be provid
Residents' committee members and Health Ministry officials visiting Mr Bu Qing Liang (in grey), 48, at his home in Block 203, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, yesterday. All residents of the block are being urged to go for a free TB screening that will be provided at their void deck from today till Sunday.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Some residents were very worried, others much less so, after being told last night that six of their neighbours had been diagnosed with the same drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis (TB).

They were informed by representatives from the Ministry of Health (MOH), grassroots volunteers and Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Koh Poh Koon. Split into teams, the group of about 10 went from door to door at Block 203, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, encouraging residents to go for a free TB screening that will be provided at their void deck from today till Sunday.

"Of course, I'm scared, and I'm worried for my family," said 34-year-old delivery attendant Fazli Sahat, who lives with his wife and two teenage sons on the ninth storey of the block of two-room rental flats. "I've told them we must all go for the check-up and get any medical treatment if we need to."

One floor up lives telemarketer Mumtaz Begum Syed Yusope, 42, her elderly mother and uncle.

"It's weird that something like this can happen," she said, referring to how six people in the same block got the disease over four years. The first patient was diagnosed in 2012, and the last in May this year. "But I'm glad that they are giving us free check-ups - especially for the elderly folk who are more vulnerable," added Ms Mumtaz.

The screening, which takes about 15 minutes and includes a blood test and a chest X-ray, is being provided free, along with any subsequent treatment if necessary.

When The Straits Times visited the block at around 8pm, grassroots volunteers and MOH officers were setting up tables and chairs at the void deck for the screenings. Dr Koh was chatting with residents in their homes. He said he would speak to the media only later.

Letters in four languages containing information on the free screening and frequently asked questions about the disease were also distributed to residents.

Madam Joanne Yeo, who lives with her sister and son on the eighth floor of the 11-storey block, was not too concerned. The 53-year-old, who is unemployed, said her family does not interact with their neighbours very much.

"If I am coughing badly, I'll just go straight to the doctor," she added.

But others said they would rather be safe than sorry. Part-time cleaner Phua Geok Lian, 68, who lives on the fifth floor with her husband, said: "It's no use worrying too much. But we will go for the check-up just for peace of mind."

The screening will be available from 9am to 9pm. Those unable to have it done at Block 203 can walk into any Sata CommHealth clinic from June 20 to 30. Parents with children under five are encouraged to take them to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for a skin test.

Former residents who lived in the block from July 2011 can also go for screening at any Sata clinic until June 30. After that, residents and former residents can make an appointment at the TB Control Unit.

•For more information, residents can call 6325 9220 or e-mail moh_info@moh.gov.sg


This letter was distributed to residents at Block 203 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3. The letter came in four languages and also included information on the free TB screening and FAQs about TB. ST PHOTO: YEO SAM JO

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Worried residents say they'll get screened'. Print Edition | Subscribe