Kids screened for TB at Clementi pre-school

A staff member at a PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots pre-school in Clementi was found with active tuberculosis.
A staff member at a PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots pre-school in Clementi was found with active tuberculosis.PHOTO: REUTERS

To date, no active TB cases found among 66 staff and children who had close contact with patient, says MOH

A staff member at a PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots pre-school was found to have tuberculosis, but none of those who had been in close contact has developed the active form of the illness.

When asked about the incident first reported by Channel 8, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said 66 staff and children at the pre-school at Block 420A, Clementi Avenue 1, had been screened by Monday. So far, 45 tested negative and results for 21 are pending. To date, there have been no active TB cases among the 66 close contacts. Latent TB is non- infectious and has no symptoms.

MOH and the Tuberculosis Control Unit (TBCU) had been informed on March 3 that a staff member had been diagnosed with a case of active TB. The person was immediately put on medical leave and began treatment.

TBCU contacted the school on the same day and, on March 6, conducted a site visit to "further identify close contacts for follow-up screening", MOH's statement yesterday said. These screenings and consultations were offered for free.

Jurong GRC MP Tan Wu Meng, who posted on Facebook about the incident, told The Straits Times how he had been contacted by concerned parents.

"For example, some were worried about the interpretation of the skin test for TB. Some families had a sick relative at home and were wondering if additional precautions were needed while waiting for results. I have also asked MOH to help support the students and parents.

"As the father of a young child, I can understand the worry felt by our Clementi parents," said Dr Tan.

He added that the affected families can contact him any time.

TB is typically contracted after prolonged exposure to infected patients, instead of through objects or surfaces which the patient had touched, said MOH. Only those who had been in close or prolonged contact are required to undergo screening.

"In this case, only children who had been in close and prolonged contact with the infectious individual require screening by TBCU. There is no need for the other children to be tested," MOH explained.

To test for TB, those aged five and above will be given a blood test. A chest X-ray is taken only if doctors assess that this is necessary.

For children below five, a skin prick test is administered together with a chest X-ray.

Each year, around 1,500 Singapore residents develop TB, with nine in 10 making a full recovery. Treatment lasts at least six months, and a specific combination of drugs needs to be taken daily to defeat the persistent bacteria.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'Kids screened for TB at Clementi pre-school'. Print Edition | Subscribe