18 typhoid fever cases in 3 weeks

The authorities are investigating after 18 people were hospitalised for typhoid fever in about three weeks.

The individuals developed symptoms of the bacterial infection between July 13 and Aug 4, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said in a joint statement yesterday. They are currently in stable condition, and 14 patients have been discharged.

In response to queries from The Sunday Times, MOH and SFA said that they are interviewing affected individuals to identify common links, and collecting food and water samples for testing. Household members of those who fell ill have also been tested and advised to seek medical help if they develop symptoms.

In cases where the affected individuals are also food handlers, they will not be allowed to work until they have fully recovered. "As an added precaution, MOH has informed doctors through an alert to remain vigilant and report typhoid fever cases."

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said: "If the cases are local, it tells you that restaurants are doing a terrible job. If it is overseas imports, it could mean that Singaporeans are ignorant of risks when they travel and they need to be educated."

Typhoid fever is an infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi, and is transmitted through eating food or water contaminated by the faeces and urine of patients or carriers. Symptoms of typhoid include a prolonged fever which may be accompanied by a headache, body aches, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation. It is treatable with antibiotics. Food items that could be contaminated include raw or ready-to-eat foods, like raw (unpasteurised) milk or their products, seafood and fresh produce, including fruits and vegetables.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 18, 2019, with the headline '18 typhoid fever cases in 3 weeks'. Print Edition | Subscribe