Third case of tuberculosis at Bedok school

PHOTO: Third case of tuberculosis at Bedok school

SINGAPORE - A 16-year-old female student from Bedok Town Secondary school has been diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), making her the third such case at the school this year.

Secondary four student Jarah Lachica started coughing blood on last Thursday night and was rushed to Changi General Hospital, her mother told The Straits Times (ST).

Tests conducted showed the teenager had contracted TB and she was placed in an isolation ward and put on medication.

She was well enough by Monday to take her O-level paper at the hospital.

TB is an infectious disease that mainly affects a person's lungs. A infected person can spread the disease by coughing or sneezing.

In April 2011, the school reported its first case of TB, which involved a 17-year-old female student. A few months later in July, a second case of a student coming down with TB was reported by the school.

When it was notified of the first case, Tan Tock Seng Hospital's TB Control Unit tested a total of 45 students for TB, which included classmates and 10 teachers. According to a report, some students tested positive for the latent form of the disease.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) told reporters that this latest case was not an identified contact of the other two students previously infected.

The three were from different academic levels and were not close contacts, MOH said.

However, Jarah's 17-year-old brother who also studies at the school, had contact with the first infected patient and was tested for TB in April. He tested negative.

Dr Cynthia Chee, a senior consultant at the hospital's TB Control Unit, told ST that those who have close and prolonged contact with the disease can catch a latent form of TB.

Those with a latent form of TB infection remain healthy but carry the TB germ in their body and do not spread it to others, she said.

One out of 10 people with the latent form go on to develop the active disease, she said.

MOH is conducting further genetic analysis to ascertain if the cases are linked, ST reported. MOH will also screen the close contacts of the latest case to determine if any students or teachers were exposed.

Bedok Town Secondary School will also be working closely with the relevant health bodies on preventive and intervention measures, the principal said.