MOH clears the air on 'sashimi-infection link'

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has not found any link between the Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection and consumption of sashimi, a Japanese dish of raw meat or fish.

In a Facebook post, it responded to messages circulating by SMS and WhatsApp from an unknown source that claim a person had died recently from a bacterial infection after eating sashimi over the National Day weekend, and that a professor had been critically ill after consuming salmon sashimi two months ago.

MOH said its investigation found an association only between the GBS infection and the consumption of "yusheng style" raw fish sold at food stalls.

It had previously found traces of GBS in some raw fish samples, although it said more cases would have to be studied before a definite conclusion can be made.

In its post on Wednesday, MOH highlighted that there has been a "significant downtrend" in the number of GBS cases since the middle of last month, when licensed food-shop and food-stall holders were advised to stop selling raw fish dishes using Song fish, also known as Asian Bighead Carp, and Toman fish, also known as Snakehead.

A weekly average of three cases has been reported in the past three weeks, down from an average of 20 at the start of the year.

The WhatsApp messages warning of a bacterial outbreak from eating contaminated raw fish began circulating last month.

There was also a spike in the number of GBS infections in the first half of the year.

MOH reported a total of 238 cases from public hospitals from Jan 1 to June 30, up from an annual average of 150 cases in the past four years.

GBS is a common bacterium found in the gut and urinary tract of 15 to 30 per cent of adults, but it does not cause disease in healthy individuals. However, it may occasionally cause infections of the bloodstream, skin and soft tissue, joints, lungs and brain.

Those with chronic or multiple conditions are at a higher risk of getting GBS infections.

MOH advised vulnerable groups - especially young children, pregnant women, elderly people or those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes - to continue to exercise caution by avoiding raw, ready-to-eat food.

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