SINGAPORE — Two separate tuberculosis clusters involving a total of 18 people who had prolonged exposure at the Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre have been identified, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday (20 January).
The cases had immediately started treatment following diagnosis and are not a current ongoing public health risk, the ministry added.
The MOH said that investigations into the cases did not reveal any common links, other than that they had all frequently visited the betting centre over a period ranging from months to years and spent prolonged durations at the centre watching live horse-racing telecasts.
The cases did not know each other, and had not identified each other as close contacts.
The two clusters were determined by genetic sequencing and epidemiological investigations which concluded in January, as part of retrospective testing of TB cases to determine linkages, said the MOH.
The 18 cases were diagnosed between February 2015 and October last year. The link among five cases diagnosed between July 2018 and February last year was established and the MOH was notified of the cluster on 28 July last year.
The 13 cases in the second cluster, who were diagnosed between February 2015 and October last year, with the MOH notified of these cases between 1 December last year and 11 January.
In line with the ministry’s TB prevention strategy, officers from Singapore TB Elimination Programme (STEP) had initiated contact investigations upon notification of each of the cases.
Close contacts of all the 18 cases had already been identified and contacted by STEP for screening.
“The risk of transmission to people who are not close contacts is very low. However, as a precautionary measure, officers from the STEP will be contacting patrons who have visited Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre between 12 February and 25 March 2020 for TB screening,” the MOH said.
Screening will be conducted free of charge at the Tuberculosis Control Unit (TBCU) at 142 Moulmein Road.
Voluntary screening will also be offered to former patrons who had spent prolonged durations at the Singapore Pools Bedok Betting Centre to watch live horse-racing telecasts between 2018 and 25 March last year.
Those who wish to be screened may call the TBCU hotline at 6258 4430.
“While screening is not compulsory, MOH strongly encourages these individuals to be screened. Those with positive screening results will be offered appropriate advice and follow-up. Those with active TB will be treated immediately while those with latent non-infectious TB will be monitored and treated if necessary,” said the MOH.
It added that screening for visitors to the betting centre or its vicinity, but did not spend prolonged time watching horse-racing telecasts, is assessed to be unnecessary due to the very low risk of transmission posed to them.
TB is curable and usually involves a combination of different drugs, taken for six to nine months.
It is endemic in Singapore and latent TB infection is not uncommon in the population, as it had been prevalent here until the 1970s. Older Singaporeans could have been exposed to TB and acquired latent TB infection when they were younger.
People with latent TB do not experience TB symptoms and are not infectious.
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