Singapore

Two more possible cases of TB at Ang Mo Kio block

Two more possible TB patients found at AMK block with outbreak. Resident fears for his family

It has been almost three weeks since news broke about the unusual cluster of tuberculosis (TB) cases at Block 203, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, but one family is still not taking any chances.

"We have masks on standby, and I bought more just in case," carpenter Choong Yuen Cheong, 46, told The New Paper.

He is worried about his two sons.

"I told them that once they reach home, they have to wash their hands."

Residents and former residents of the block were screened for TB last month after the Ministry of Health (MOH) found multiple cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB) there.

MOH said yesterday that the residents have been receiving their screening results since June 30.

Of the 223 residents screened at the block, 164 tested negative.

Forty-five residents are suspected to have latent TB, which refers to persons who have the TB bacteria in their system but are not infectious.

The Tuberculosis Control Unit will follow up with them every six months over the next two years.

Based on chest X-rays, MOH revealed that two residents may have active TB.

DNA fingerprinting analysis is being done to ascertain if they have the strain of MDR TB.

Follow-up treatment, monitoring and contact tracing will also be carried out for these two cases.

Mr Choong's family is among 12 residents and former residents who were screened at SATA clinics after they missed the on-site screening. They will get their results within two weeks.

Mr Choong, who said his family would be collecting their screening results today, was concerned after learning that two residents might be infected.

"I am the only one working in the family," he said.

"If anything happens to the children, I don't know how we will cope."

SHUNNED

A wheelchair-bound resident who previously told TNP about his successful battle against TB, said yesterday that some now shun him out of fear that he could still spread the disease.

The 62-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Mr Seah, said now, fewer people buy packets of tissue paper from him.

Some even made comments such as: "You have TB so you should stay at home. Why are you selling tissue paper?"

He said: "If I don't sell tissue paper, I don't have any money."

Others like Mr Ang, 67, a cleaner who tested negative for TB, said regular patrons at a coffee shop nearby would avoid him.

"They don't dare to share a table with me because they know I live in Block 203," he said.

Professor Philip Eng, senior consultant respiratory physician at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said TB is not as contagious as other diseases such as influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome and Ebola.

"It is an airborne disease so the main mode of transmission is inhalation of droplets from a patient who expels it by coughing or sneezing," he said.

"Transmission, however, would require prolonged and intense exposure to the patient. Casual contact, like being in the same lift, has a very low likelihood of transmission."

Prof Eng emphasised that TB is "very treatable".

He advised those who have a prolonged cough (of more than three weeks) to see a physician and have a chest X-ray done.

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