Singapore

NEA reminds beach users to stay clean

This comes after four develop skin irritation after trips to two Sentosa beaches

The stay-clean advice is not just important to guard against Covid-19 infection, it is a useful reminder as people head out amid relaxed measures.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) stressed the importance of maintaining hygiene, even at beaches.

"Beach users are advised to regularly wash their hands, avoid swimming or wading in bodies of water with open wounds, and shower after exposure to marine water," it said.

The reminder comes after four people developed skin irritation following two separate trips to two beaches on Sentosa.

They were infected by Staphylococcus aureus (staph), a harmless and common germ found on the skin and nostrils of three out of every 10 people and in the environment.

Usually it causes minor irritation in an infected person.

But for Ms Elisse, 37, and her family, it needed a visit on July 23 to the National University Hospital for incision and drainage surgery to remove pus out of wounds that had become infected. They were hospitalised from July 23 to 26.

It happened after a trip to Tanjong Beach on Sentosa last month.

A few weeks later, they learnt that their neighbour's five-year-old son had developed a $1 coin-size itchy boil below his knee.

The boy had spent Aug 4 at Palawan Beach's HydroDash - a floating obstacle course.

The neighbour, a 43-year-old pharmacist who did not want to be identified, said her son's doctor suspected the boil was caused by a staph infection.

It is still unclear how they were infected.

The bacteria can be passed by an infected person to another party, but it is also a common cause of food poisoning and can be left on surfaces.

NEA said waters around Singapore are not checked for the staph bacteria and the World Health Organisation (WHO) issues no such guidelines.

Experts say this is because the bacteria is common and largely harmless.

The WHO does mention that staph may be found on the sands of popular beaches due to activity by beach-goers, NEA added.

The water quality at seven beaches, including in Sentosa, is monitored weekly for enterococcus - a harmful bacterium found in animal and human faeces.

Enterococcus counts last month were within WHO guidelines for primary contact activities like swimming, said NEA.

Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, an infectious disease doctor at the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said: "The family members may have already carried the staph bacteria, and micro-injuries sustained then led to the infections."

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said members of the family may have had the illness spread among themselves by contact.

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