TB case in childcare centre in Singapore sparks alarm!

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This TB case in childcare centre in Singapore has sparked alarm among staff and parents. Are young children especially vulnerable to TB?

Recently, it came to light that a staff member at PCF Sparkletots pre-school, Clementi, had been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB). Were children infected already?

TB case in childcare centre in Singapore

Channel 8 news first reported on the incident, which happened at a PCF centre at Block 420A, Clementi. It triggered alarm among staff and parents alike.

According to The Straits Times, Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Tuberculosis Control Unit (TBCU) were informed on March 3, about the staff member's condition. They sprung into action; the staff member was straightaway put on medical leave and treatment. The TBCU also contacted the school immediately; it further did a site visit on 6 March, for identifying who needed to be screened for TB.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed that, as of now, a total of 66 staff and children from the centre have been screened for TB, of which 45 have tested negative, and results of the remaining 21 are still pending doctor's evaluation.

It has also been confirmed that none of the 66 screened have active tuberculosis. However, in a report on Channel 8 news, apparently 3 children have tested positive for latent tuberculosis? theAsianparent contacted the TB Contact Clinic to confirm, but were informed that the results were confidential and could not be revealed.

Tuberculosis in children

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease which primarily affects the lungs, and is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB is spread when a person with active TB coughs or sneezes, and expels the germs into the air. It usually requires prolonged and close contact with someone with active TB, to get infected with TB.

The initial stage or the first infection with the tuberculosis bacteria is called latent TB. Latent TB usually shows no signs or symptoms, and is not contagious. Active TB is characterised by fever, profuse sweating at night, and chronic persistent cough (sometimes with blood). Tuberculosis is known to aggravate in small children, especially in those less than 5, due to their weak immune systems.

theAsianparent asked Dr Chan Si Min, Head and Consultant, Division of Paediatric Infectious Diseases, National University Hospital, some questions related to tuberculosis in children. Here are her responses:

1. How common is TB among children in Singapore?

"Not common. In 2013, only 7 children under the age of 15 were notified to have TB disease. That is 0.5% of the total number of TB cases in Singapore that year."

2. Can latent TB be detected in children?

"Children with latent TB have no symptoms and are well. It can be diagnosed with tests (Mantoux test or blood test, depending on age)."

3. What are the chances that latent TB can get converted into active TB?

"Overall lifetime risk for an adult is about 10%- this is higher for young children though, especially those less than 2 years old."

4. What are the treatment options for TB in children, in Singapore?

"Usually, a combination of 3-4 antibiotics, specifically for TB, is used to treat active TB disease."

Also READ: Effects of tuberculosis in young children and how to prevent it

(Source: The Straits Times, Channel 8 news, kidshealth.org)

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