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Worker, 21, dies from diphtheria; first local case in 25 years: MOH

Worker, 21, dies from diphtheria; first local case in 25 years: MOH
TODAY file photo

Worker, 21, dies from diphtheria; first local case in 25 years: MOH

SINGAPORE — A 21-year-old construction worker from Bangladesh who resided at Yishun Avenue 7 and worked at Teban Gardens has died from diphtheria, the Ministry of Health said on Saturday (Aug 5).

As the worker had not travelled out of Singapore recently, he was likely to have been infected in Singapore, MOH added.

He sought medical treatment at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on Aug 1 after developing fever and swelling of the neck on July 30, and was immediately isolated and hospitalised on the same day.

The Bangladeshi national later died on Aug 4, and his respiratory sample tested positive for toxigenic Corynebacterium Diphtheriae.

The last local case of diphtheria was reported in 1992 and the last imported case was in 1996.

48 contacts who worked or lived with the deceased have been identified for further assessment, MOH said.

"Among the 48 contacts identified, two close contacts had developed sore throat since Aug 3. They have been isolated at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital," MOH said.

The 48 contacts have also been vaccinated and given preventive medication, said MOH, and their respiratory samples have been taken for testing.

Diphtheria can cause infection of the airway, which may lead to breathing difficulties and death. Symptoms include fever/ chills, sore throat, swelling of the neck and nasal discharge.

While diphtheria is transmitted from person to person via the respiratory route through close contact, it is a vaccine-preventable disease.

The risk of spread of diphtheria is assessed to be low, MOH said.

"In Singapore, compulsory vaccination against diphtheria has been established as part of the National Childhood Immunisation Programme since 1962," said MOH.

"As diphtheria vaccination is compulsory by law for children, the vaccination coverage for diphtheria in children aged two in the Singaporean population remains high (at 96 to 98 per cent)."

Diphtheria is fatal in five to ten per cent of cases, with a higher fatality rate in young children.

Vaccination against diphtheria, MOH said, is effective in reducing the mortality and morbidity of diphtheria dramatically.