Probe launched after 230 fall ill at Zhenghua Primary

As part of the investigation by the Ministry of Health and the Singapore Food Agency, a joint inspection of Zhenghua Primary School's canteen was conducted after the pupils fell ill last week, and 16 food handlers were sent for stool screening. PHOTO
As part of the investigation by the Ministry of Health and the Singapore Food Agency, a joint inspection of Zhenghua Primary School's canteen was conducted after the pupils fell ill last week, and 16 food handlers were sent for stool screening. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

Over 90% of pupils down with gastroenteritis symptoms, including 2 hospitalised, now well

An investigation has been launched after more than 200 pupils at Zhenghua Primary School came down with symptoms of gastroenteritis last week.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) yesterday announced that they had launched the probe, adding that 230 cases of symptoms had been reported as of 5pm on Wednesday. Two pupils were hospitalised and later discharged.

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 taken for laboratory analysis.

The school's principal, Mrs Constance Loke, told The Straits Times that on last Wednesday and Thursday, about 200 pupils experienced symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

More than 90 per cent of the pupils have recovered and had returned to school by Monday, including the two who were hospitalised.

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

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.

Mrs Loke added that the canteen food handlers are regularly reminded about the importance of food hygiene. 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.

A joint statement from the MOH and the SFA said people can develop gastroenteritis through several ways - such as 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.

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

Earlier this month, more than 20 students at Ridge View Residential College in 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 in NUS developed symptoms of gastroenteritis.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2019, with the headline 'Probe launched after 230 fall ill at Zhenghua Primary'. Print Edition | Subscribe