According to state media Straits Times today (May 17), 39 pre-school children and 4 staffs have been confirmed to be infected with Tuberculosis (TB) at PAP kindergarten Sparkletots at Clementi Ave 1. A total of 79 children and staff went through the two screenings held on March 14 and May 9. Four identified as potential TB carriers have still not completed screening.
Earlier in March, Minister for Social and Family Development (MSF) Tan Chuan Jin said that tuberculous is not contagious and hence there was no need to close school. It is unknown how many of the 43 victims were infected because the school was not closed and the Ministry of Health withheld results of the May 9 screening.
Along with state media Straits Times, the Ministry of Health (MOH) tried to play down the seriousness of the TB infection saying that the 43 who were infected are just “latent” and hence “not contagious”. However, MOH also pointed out that 10% carry a risk of developing active TB later:
“Those with latent TB have no symptoms, do not feel sick and cannot spread the disease to others. About 90 per cent of people with latent TB will never develop the active form, and treatment further reduces this risk.”
There is no mention of compensation for the families of the TB carriers resulted from the infected kindergarten. The kindergarten is still in operation and there is no measure to isolate TB carriers from other uninfected children at the school. Thanks to the state media propaganda, there is also no outrage over the government’s failure of a swift response to arrest the infection spread. Many Singaporeans believe a latent TB is not contagious because the national newspaper and minister says so.
Singaporean children at the age of 12 receives a mandatory BCG injection to vaccinate against TB and the country has since been TB-free until recently. The source of TB outbreak in the kindergarten is hence likely from a foreigner who was not tested for TB.