SINGAPORE — No new cases of diphtheria have been detected after a screening of nearly 50 people who had been in close contact with a worker who died from the disease, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Thursday (Aug 10).
The victim was a 21-year-old construction worker from Bangladesh who lived at Yishun Avenue 7 and worked at Teban Gardens.
He died on Aug 4, in what was the Republic’s first local case of diphtheria in 25 years.
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection transmitted through close physical contact, usually through respiratory droplets, such as from coughing or sneezing. It can cause infection of the airways, which may lead to breathing difficulties and death. Symptoms include fever or chills, sore throat, swelling of the neck and nasal discharge.
The ministry said 48 of the deceased worker’s close contacts had tested negative for toxigenic Corynebacterium diphtheriae, which causes diphtheria. Of the 48, two developed a sore throat and had to be warded in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. However, they have since been discharged. The others “remain well”.
“All 48 contacts have been given preventive medication and a booster diphtheria vaccine. There is no evidence of further spread,” the MOH added.
The deceased worker was likely to have been infected in Singapore as he had not travelled out of the country recently, the ministry had said earlier. An investigation into the source of infection has been launched. Vaccination against diphtheria is effective in reducing infection and severity of diphtheria, the ministry said on Thursday.
In Singapore, compulsory vaccination against diphtheria is part of the National Childhood Immunisation Programme, it added.
A 2010 National Health Survey showed that a high proportion of adult Singapore residents, or 92 per cent, aged 18 to 79, also have some immunity to diphtheria.
“Cases of diphtheria are rare in Singapore and the threat of spread is low,” said the MOH.