MOH concludes TB screening in Bukit Merah; 2,500 tested
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has concluded its screening for tuberculosis (TB) in Jalan Bukit Merah, with more than 97 per cent of the 2,548 people tested found non-infectious.
Two active TB cases were found in the course of the screening, which was carried out between Jan 11 and 15, with another 66 people needing to undergo further evaluation, the ministry said in a statement on Feb 8.
Of the total number screened, 2,158, or 84.7 per cent, tested negative and do not require any follow-up action, while 322, or 12.6 per cent, were diagnosed with latent TB.
Those with latent TB do not have symptoms and are non-infectious. They cannot spread it to others as the TB bacteria remain inactive in the body. However, the disease can be activated months or even years later because of a weakened immune system, certain medical conditions or other factors.
The TB screening was mandatory for those who live and work in Blocks 1 and 3 Jalan Bukit Merah, employees at ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre, as well as clients and staff of the senior activity centre at Block 3 Jalan Bukit Merah, after 10 cases of the disease were detected in the area between February 2022 and July 2023.
Genetic analysis conducted in September 2023 showed that all 10 cases had a genetic make-up similar to that of the cluster of seven TB cases linked to Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah in 2022.
Voluntary screening was offered to those who frequently visited the market and food centre, or Blocks 1, 2 and 3.
Of those who went through the mandatory screening, said MOH in its statement, 18.4 per cent tested positive in their blood test, indicating that they were infected with TB.
MOH said this was higher than the historical positive rate of 12.7 per cent in the general population, adding that it was within expectation because of the TB cases in the area.
However, the blood test was not conclusive in showing whether they had a latent or active form of the disease, and subsequent chest X-rays were done on-site between Jan 25 and 27 to assess them further.
The National Centre for Infectious Diseases has said that about 10 per cent of those with a latent infection will develop active TB disease over their lifetime, but the risk is highest in the first two years after being infected.
MOH said it will offer preventive treatment to those identified as having latent TB infections to reduce the risk of active TB disease in the future.
Of the 1,748 people identified for the mandatory screening, 47 have yet to do so, with MOH arranging for them to be tested at the TB Control Unit in Moulmein Road.
“Clinic appointments at the TB Control Unit have also been made for persons who have tested positive on their blood test or those with abnormal chest X-ray,” said the ministry, adding that those with active TB will undergo treatment.
Meanwhile, it found that the rate of TB cases among those who took part in the voluntary screening was lower than that of the general population.
This means that visitors to the area did not have a higher risk of being infected with TB, said MOH, removing the need to expand the screening.