About 170 people test positive for TB in Jalan Bukit Merah; MOH extends screening

Voluntary tuberculosis screening being conducted for residents and business owners in Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah last month. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Some 30 per cent of 574 residents and workers at 2 Jalan Bukit Merah - or about 170 people - who went through voluntary testing in late May have tested positive for tuberculosis.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Friday (June 24) that further tests would be run for those living and working at the site – a Housing Board block with several shops on the ground floor – who tested positive to determine if they have TB infection or active TB disease.

"Those with active TB disease will be treated while those with latent TB infection will be given appointments for follow-up at the TB Control Unit and offered treatment if suitable," said MOH in the release.

The ministry has also detected one more case that is "genetically linked by whole genome sequencing", with contact investigations under way.

MOH offered tests for current and former residents, stallholders, shop owners and their employees in that block last month as a preventive measure after seven people were diagnosed with TB at the block between February 2021 and March this year.

In its statement last month, MOH said that a genetic analysis in April revealed a similar genetic make-up in the first seven cases, suggesting that the cases were linked to at least one common source.

There are still 175 people in the block who have yet to be screened and MOH will extend TB screening for people at that location to Saturday. Screening will be available from 9am to 5.30pm.

The screening is mandatory under the Infectious Diseases Act and those who have been recalled for further tests will also be required to complete these tests. The extended screening and further tests are free.

MOH said staff from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases have visited non-respondent units to urge residents who had not been screened earlier to undergo screening.

Screening is not necessary for people who had occasionally visited the block or its vicinity as the risk of transmission to those who are transient contacts of a TB case is low, MOH added.

According to MOH, the symptoms of TB disease include a persistent cough that lasts three weeks or longer, low-grade fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss and chest pain.

MOH said on Friday: “TB is typically spread through close and prolonged contact with an infectious individual, and not by contact with items or surfaces touched by a person with TB. 

“Therefore, persons who are contacted and screened following the detection of a TB individual typically comprise family members, close workplace colleagues and acquaintances from common social activities with close and regular interaction.” 

The screening station is located at the Queenstown Hock San Zone Residents’ Committee Centre at Block 3 Jalan Bukit Merah.

Those who are unavailable to attend this screening can get tested at the designated Sata CommHealth Potong Pasir Medical Centre before Aug 5, MOH said.

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