Pre-schoolers screened for TB at Bukit Batok centre

A teacher at Little Greenhouse had not shown any symptoms of tuberculosis, according to the childcare centre's deputy chief operations officer Ruth Kua.
A teacher at Little Greenhouse had not shown any symptoms of tuberculosis, according to the childcare centre's deputy chief operations officer Ruth Kua.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

K1 teacher at Little Greenhouse diagnosed with disease last week

A pre-school in Bukit Batok started screening children and staff for tuberculosis (TB) yesterday after a female teacher was diagnosed with the disease.

The Kindergarten 1 teacher from China, who has not been named, works at Little Greenhouse childcare centre. She was diagnosed with TB last Wednesday and given two weeks of medical leave.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and Tuberculosis Control Unit (TBCU) were notified and did not require the school to close. They began screening children yesterday.

"The patient is now undergoing treatment," the MOH said. "Persons with active TB disease rapidly become non-infectious once treatment starts. TB transmission typically requires close and prolonged contact with an infectious individual. It is not spread by contact with items or surfaces touched by a person with TB."

The teacher had not shown any symptoms of the disease, according to Little Greenhouse's deputy chief operations officer Ruth Kua.

  • Other TB cases

  • There have been several cases of tuberculosis of late.

    A female resident of the Peacehaven Bedok Day Centre was diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB) in June, but is undergoing treatment and is no longer infectious. A total of 36 residents and centre staff were screened, and a few were found to have latent TB.

    Those with latent TB are not infectious.

    There are at least five confirmed cases of TB among SMRT staff working around Tanah Merah since last December, of which three are active TB cases.

    As of the week of Aug 8, 29 others have been screened.

    SMRT has since ordered screening of all staff working around Tanah Merah, where the cases were found.

    In Ang Mo Kio, six residents of a housing block were diagnosed with the same drug- resistant strain of the disease between February 2012 and May this year.

She said the centre was fumigated and sanitised on Saturday. Parents were informed of the case at the weekend.

There are 104 children - from 18 months to six years old - enrolled at the school in Bukit Batok Street 31. The TBCU screened about half of them yesterday.

The rest will be screened tomorrow.

The MOH said that for those over five, screening consists of a blood test, and for those under five, a skin test and chest X-ray are performed.

The school's 20 staff will also be screened by tomorrow.

Ms Kua said the teacher joined in June last year on a two-year contract. She said: "I plan to end her contract early . The job involves a lot of contact with very young children who have low immunity.

"What if she has a relapse?"

But doctors said that this is not a valid concern. Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said: "Completing the course (of medicine) diligently practically assures the patient of a cure."

Those with latent TB are not infectious and do not spread the disease.

The Early Childhood Development Agency said there have been "isolated instances" of pre-school teachers being diagnosed with TB.

Housewife Gan Li, 32, said: "My five-year-old son was in direct contact with this teacher with TB.

"We are very worried as I have a three-month-old boy, too."

The MOH said TB mainly affects older adults. Last year, only 0.6 per cent of TB cases among Singapore residents occurred in under-15s.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline 'Pre-schoolers screened for TB at Bt Batok centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe