Singapore

Two tuberculosis clusters linked to Bedok betting outlet found

18 people getting treatment and are not public health risk: MOH

Two separate tuberculosis clusters involving a total of 18 people who visited the Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre have been identified.

No common links have been found other than the fact they had all frequently visited the outlet over periods ranging from months to years, and spent prolonged stretches there watching horse-racing telecasts.

The cases did not know each other and had not identified each other as close contacts.

Tuberculosis, also known as TB, a potentially serious infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs, spreads through tiny droplets released into the air by coughs and sneezes.

While it is highly contagious, patients rapidly become non-infectious once treatment starts.

The last TB cluster was detected last October at Block 174D Hougang Avenue 1, after four people staying in four different units were infected.

The 18 cases from the two new clusters were diagnosed between February 2015 and October last year.

The link among five cases in the first cluster diagnosed between July 2018 and February last year was established and the Ministry of Health (MOH) was notified on July 28, 2020.

The 13 cases in the second cluster were diagnosed between February 2015 and October last year and brought to the attention of MOH between Dec 1 last year and Jan 11.

"The cases had immediately started treatment following diagnosis and are not a current ongoing public health risk," said MOH yesterday, adding that the risk of transmission to people who are not close contacts is very low.

TB was prevalent in Singapore until the 1970s, so older folk could have acquired an infection when younger. It is estimated that between 2 and 29 per cent of Singaporeans have latent TB infections.

People with latent TB do not experience symptoms and are not infectious, but about 10 percent of this group may develop active TB over the course of their lives.

Symptoms of an active infection may include a persistent cough that lasts at least three weeks, low-grade fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss and chest pain.

Close contacts of all the 18 cases have already been contacted by the Singapore TB Elimination Programme for screening.

As a precaution, patrons who visited the Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre between Feb 12 and March 25 last year will also be contacted for screening.

This will be done free of charge at the Tuberculosis Control Unit at 142 Moulmein Road.

Voluntary screening will also be offered to patrons who spent prolonged periods of cumulative days at the betting centre between 2018 and March 25 last year.

MEDICAL & HEALTH