At least one student at a preschool in Punggol has been diagnosed with latent tuberculosis (TB), after a trainee teacher tested positive for the disease earlier this month.
The Tuberculosis Control Unit (TBCU) carried out screening at the Bridges Montessori facility at 200 Ponggol Seventeenth Ave last Tuesday (Aug 23), after the diagnosis was made, according to the preschool's director, Irene Toh. She told Channel NewsAsia that she was informed by some parents that their children had tested positive for the illness after the screening. Ms Toh was unable to provide a specific number, pending further confirmation. There are about 50 students at the centre.
A parent of a child who attends the centre told Channel NewsAsia her two-year-old daughter tested positive for latent TB based on the initial screening. She has another appointment with Tan Tock Seng Hospital on Tuesday (Aug 30).
Ms Toh said the trainee teacher involved was new, having been at the preschool for about three weeks. She passed a medical test in her home country.
It was after a pre-employment screening in Singapore that the teacher was diagnosed with active TB. Ms Toh said the school was informed by Tan Tock Seng Hospital about the positive diagnosis.
She said the centre reached a mutual agreement with the teacher to leave the school, adding that the teacher plans to return to her home country.
The centre's principal, Jen Chng, first informed parents of the incident in an email sent on Aug 14. The email, seen by Channel NewsAsia, said that the preschool had "identified" a case of active TB on Aug 12 among its employees, and that some children might have been exposed to the disease.
In the email, the centre said it is working closely with the Health Ministry and the TBCU on the matter. It said the affected employee was on medical leave and would return to the school when certified fit by MOH.
The email also said MOH would visit the school for a site assessment on Aug 16, and conduct health checks, tests and contact tracing. It assured parents that the school has taken "all precautionary measures" such as sanitising the environment.
This is the second time in a month that a teacher at a preschool has been diagnosed with TB, after a member of staff at Little Greenhouse in Bukit Batok came down with the illness. Channel NewsAsia has sought comment from the Health Ministry on the latest case.
LATENT TB INFECTION NOT UNCOMMON: MOH
In response to queries, MOH said the number of new active TB cases among residents fluctuates from year to year, but within a stable range. The number of cases of new active TB among long staying foreigners has not been on the increase over the past few years, and has been within a stable range as well, it said.
Latent TB infection is not uncommon in Singapore's population as TB had been prevalent in the country until the 1970s, and older Singaporeans could have been exposed to TB and acquired latent TB infection when they were younger, the ministry added. It is estimated that up to 29 per cent of Singaporeans have latent TB infection and the prevalence of increases with age, MOH said.