Ministry of Health (MOH) in its reply to a parliament question, was not able to provide update to the reason of how the Ang Mo Kio tuberculosis (TB) cluster occured.
Dr Lily Neo, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, asked the Minister for Health at the 22nd session of the 13th Parliament on whether the recent occurrence of a cluster of tuberculosis cases is of alarming concern and whether he can provide an update on the reason for such occurrence.
Earlier on June 16, MOH held a press conference and revealed that there were 6 cases of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB) emerged from Ang Mo Kio Block 203, and the first case were found back in 2012.
Of the six who are infected with MDRTB, three lived in a same apartment, and the first one were diagnosed with MDRTB in February 2012. The members of his household were being monitored. Then two other were diagnosed in May 2012 and October 2015. As for the other three, they do not live in a same apartment. One were diagnosed in April 2014, another in October 2015 and the last one were diagnosed just last month. No history of contact by the three were found through the interview, making this a very unusual case.
Between 16 to 19 June, MOH conducted a free screenings at the block. A total of 223 residents and former residents were screened on-site. Of these, 164 tested negative for TB and do not require follow-up action, 45 diagnosed with latent TB, 3 had previously contracted TB earlier in life and had completed treatment and not related to TB cluster and 2 possibly have active TB. The other 9 residents have only completed either a chest x-ray or blood test.
Explaining that tuberculosis is usually spread by prolonged close contact with infected persons. MOH noted that the recent cluster, where a few cases of the same TB strain were discovered among residents of a single housing block, was highly unusual.
MOH states that its TB Control Unit has so far not been able to uncover where some of the residents concerned could have had close interactions.
As a precautionary measure, MOH worked with grassroots leaders to conduct TB screening for past and current residents of the block.
Two of the residents screened had signs of active TB, have undergone treatments, and are no longer infectious.
Residents who had latent TB are not infectious, and the vast majority (9 in 10) of them will not develop active TB in their lifetime.
MOH said it had advised them with the TB symptoms to look out for, and to report to the TB Control Unit for medical review if they develop such symptoms.
Early detection and prompt treatment are essential to ensure effective control of TB infections.