Everything About the Mass Tuberculosis Screening in Bukit Merah


Advertisements
 

If you’ve been experiencing a persistent cough that lingers unusually long and are grappling with additional symptoms like breathing difficulties or fever, you might be thinking of getting yourself an ART test kit, worrying it might be a potential COVID-19 concern. 

However, you should consider undergoing a tuberculosis screening, especially if you live in Bukit Merah.

Following the discovery of ten new tuberculosis (TB) cases linked to a Jalan Bukit Merah cluster that initially emerged in 2022, all residents and workers in the area are now required to undergo a TB screening exercise.

This cluster was identified in March 2022, with seven TB cases among Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah residents, occurring between February 2021 and March 2022.

The mass screening process is compulsory for specific groups and voluntary for others, involving about 3,000 individuals, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement on Friday (5 January 2024).

Mandatory Tuberculosis Screening from 11 to 15 Jan 2024

The mass screening exercise is scheduled to take place from 11 to 15 January 2024 to detect any unnoticed active TB cases and curb further transmission.

The screening process will be carried out for free for residents and employees of Blocks 1 and 3 Jalan Bukit Merah, ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre, and Thong Kheng Seniors Activity Centre (Queenstown) at Block 3 Jalan Bukit Merah.

Image: Google Maps

According to the MOH, the ten recently identified active TB cases share genetic links with the cluster of seven cases reported at Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah in 2022.

Among the ten new cases, two reside in Block 1 Jalan Bukit Merah, one lives in Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah, one works at the adjacent ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre, and six frequently visited the market.

The cluster, in its entirety, currently comprises 28 cases, encompassing the four additional cases at Blocks 1 and 3 that emerged and the seven cases that were detected during the mass screening conducted after the initial cluster of seven cases was identified.

Voluntary Screening for Other Groups

Voluntary screening is also being extended to various groups.

This includes individuals who frequently visit the market or reside in Blocks 1, 2, and 3 Jalan Bukit Merah for more than 12 hours per month between November 2021 and January 2024. 

Moreover, it extends to those who reside or work at Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah and did not participate in the tuberculosis screening during the previous mass exercise from May 2022 to August 2022. Former residents and tenants of Block 1 and 3 Jalan Bukit Merah are also eligible for free voluntary screening.

Furthermore, teachers and students of the PCF Sparkletots preschool located at Block 3 Jalan Bukit Merah can also avail themselves of voluntary screening.

The MOH said that individuals who only occasionally visited the blocks, market, food centre, or the surrounding area have a very low risk of transmission, making screening unnecessary for them.

Mandatory and voluntary screening services are provided for free, with priority given to those for whom screening is obligatory.


Advertisements
 

Screening Stations Conducted Near Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah

Between 11 and 13 January 2024, the MOH and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) staff will conduct mandatory screenings at the residences of those living in Blocks 1 and 3 Jalan Bukit Merah. 

They will also visit all units in the affected blocks and stalls at the ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre from 6 to 9 January 2024. 

During these visits, they will engage with residents and stallholders, addressing any questions they may have.

Additionally, screening stations will be established at the open-air car park near Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah from 11 to 15 January 2024 to accommodate individuals working at the blocks or ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre. 

Residents unable to undergo screening at home may opt to be screened at these stations instead.


Advertisements
 

For those offered voluntary screening, appointments can be scheduled for 14 and 15 January 2024 at the car park of Block 2 Jalan Bukit Merah.

The screening for voluntary groups is strictly by appointment only and can be made here.

Health Advisory from MOH

MOH strongly encourages residents and individuals working in Blocks 1 and 3 Jalan Bukit Merah, as well as patrons of ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre, to undergo screening to ascertain whether they have active TB disease or latent TB infection, which is non-infectious.

MOH said that the transmission of TB bacteria typically requires prolonged exposure, occurring over days to weeks rather than minutes to hours. 

TB is not transmitted through sharing cups, utensils, or food, and it is not spread through casual contact like handshakes, kisses, touching bed linens, or using toilet seats.

In addition to identifying active TB cases, MOH has identified almost 200 cases of latent TB infection through screening nearly 800 individuals in Jalan Bukit Merah in 2022. 


Advertisements
 

Approximately 10% of those with latent TB infection may develop active TB disease during their lifetime, with the highest risk occurring within the first two years after infection.