Bukit Merah tuberculosis screening concludes, with 2 infectious cases detected

Bukit Merah tuberculosis screening concludes, with 2 infectious cases detected

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) tuberculosis screening exercise at Jalan Bukit Merah has concluded, with two infectious cases detected.

A total of 2,548 people were screened, said the ministry on Thursday (Feb 8), with 2,158 testing negative and 322 diagnosed with latent tuberculosis infection.

Those with latent tuberculosis do not exhibit symptoms, are not infectious and do not pose a public health risk.

“Only those who have been diagnosed with active tuberculosis disease are infectious,” said MOH.

“The two persons have commenced treatment and will be non-infectious upon completion of two weeks of treatment.”

Further evaluation is required for 66 people and they have been advised to monitor for symptoms until their test results are out.

The mandatory tuberculosis screening exercise started on Jan 11 for residents and workers of Blocks 1 and 3 Jalan Bukit Merah, ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre and Thong Kheng Seniors Activity Centre @ Queenstown at Block 3 Jalan Bukit Merah.

This was a precautionary measure after a cluster of cases was identified.

Voluntary screening was also offered to frequent visitors to Blocks 1, 2 and 3 Jalan Bukit Merah and ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre. 

Blood tests were conducted from Jan 11 to Jan 15 to detect exposure to tuberculosis. 

On-site chest X-ray screening was also subsequently carried out from Jan 25 to Jan 27 to assess those who tested positive on the blood test.

Among those who underwent mandatory screening, 18.4 per cent tested positive on their blood test – indicating that they could have latent or active tuberculosis. 

“This is higher than the historical positive rate of 12.7 per cent in the general population, but this discrepancy is within expectation due to the tuberculosis cases in the area,” said MOH. 

In contrast, the rate of tuberculosis cases detected among those who participated voluntarily in the screening exercise was lower than in the general population. 

“This indicates that these individuals, as casual visitors to the area and ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre, did not have a higher risk of getting infected with tuberculosis, said the ministry, adding that it has therefore assessed that there is no need to further expand screening.

To date, 97.3 per cent, or 1,701 out of 1,748 people, who had been identified for mandatory screening have come forward to be tested. 

MOH said it will continue to engage the remaining individuals who have not completed their mandatory screening and arrange for them to be screened at the Tuberculosis Control Unit (TBCU). 

Clinic appointments at TBCU have also been made for those who have tested positive on their blood test or those with abnormal chest X-ray.

“Persons who have been diagnosed with active TB disease will be started on the appropriate treatment. Those diagnosed with latent tuberculosis infection will be offered preventive treatment to reduce their risk of development of active tuberculosis disease in the future,” said the ministry.