230 fall ill with gastroenteritis symptoms at Zhenghua Primary School

As part of an investigation by the authorities, a joint inspection of the school canteen was conducted on April 17, 2019, and 16 food handlers were sent for stool screening.
As part of an investigation by the authorities, a joint inspection of the school canteen was conducted on April 17, 2019, and 16 food handlers were sent for stool screening.PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

SINGAPORE - Zhenghua Primary School has been hit by a spate of gastroenteritis over the last week, with 230 reported to have developed symptoms as of 5pm on Wednesday (April 24).

Two were hospitalised, and both have since been discharged, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) in a joint statement on Thursday. Both authorities are investigating the incident.

As part of the investigation, a joint inspection of the school canteen was conducted last Wednesday, and 16 food handlers were sent for stool screening.

Food and environmental swabs were also taken for laboratory analysis.

Zhenghua Primary School's principal Constance Loke told The Straits Times that on April 17 and 18, about 200 pupils experienced symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

More than 90 per cent of the pupils have since recovered and returned to school by Monday. The two pupils who were hospitalised have also returned to school.

She said that the school had closed the canteen last Thursday after the incident, and in the meantime the school had engaged a licensed caterer to bring in packed food for the pupils during recess and lunch time.

The canteen resumed partial operations on Wednesday, and will resume full operations next Monday, she added.

The principal said: "The health and well-being of our students and staff are of utmost importance. The school has taken steps to sanitise common areas, water coolers, the canteen and the classrooms of the affected students."

The school will continue its daily cleaning routine and teachers will continue to remind pupils to practise strict personal hygiene, said Mrs Loke.

She added that the canteen food handlers are regularly reminded about the importance of food hygiene in the handling and preparation of food. The school's food hygiene officer also conducts regular checks of the canteen stalls.

"The school is monitoring the situation closely and working with the relevant government agencies to ascertain the cause of the incident," she said.  

The joint statement from MOH and SFA said people can develop gastroenteritis through several ways - by eating or drinking contaminated food items, or through the environment by touching contaminated surfaces or objects and putting unwashed hands in the mouth.

Another way of developing gastroenteritis is by having direct contact with someone who is infected.

MOH and SFA added that it is important for those affected to rehydrate by drinking plenty of fluids and to seek medical attention if necessary.

 
 

Earlier this month, more than 20 students at Ridge View Residential College at the National University of Singapore (NUS) fell ill after eating food from the accommodation's dining hall.

Last week, five students from student residence Prince George's Park House at NUS developed symptoms of gastroenteritis.

From late March, more than 10 PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots pre-schools were hit by food poisoning. PCF said on April 1 that more than 250 had been affected.

In February, 14 children aged between three and six fell ill at the Sparkletots pre-school at Toa Payoh West.

Later that same month, there was an outbreak of gastroenteritis at a Tanglin MindChamps pre-school, with more than 30 affected.