Singapore: MOH says fewer new tuberculosis cases in 2017

New method to combat Tuberculosis
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Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Friday that the total number of new cases of active tuberculosis (TB) in the country fell to 1,536 last year from 1,617 in 2016. This comes just a day ahead of World Tuberculosis Day that falls on Saturday.

Tuberculosis is an air-borne disease, which is transmitted through close and prolonged exposure to an infectious individual suffering from untreated and active pulmonary TB. However, experts say that it is not mandatory that all individuals who are exposed will become infected.

Doctors say that the symptoms of TB include unexplained prolonged cough for three weeks or more, low-grade fever, night sweats, fatigue, chest pain and coughing up blood.

In a press release, the authority reported a smaller incidence rate of 38.7 cases per 100,000 population in 2017, compared with 41.2 per 100,000 the previous year.

The news release stated that people who are aged 50 years old and above continued to make up a significant proportion of the new cases at 68.2 per cent and 66.7 per cent, respectively.

Interestingly, it has been noticed that 78.3 per cent among Singapore residents were Singapore-born. 124 relapsed cases and six new cases of multi-drug resistant TB were also reported.

"TB is endemic in Singapore and latent TB infection is not uncommon in our population, with rates of up to 30 per cent in the older age groups, as TB had been prevalent in Singapore until the 1970s," MOH said in the statement.

More than 10 million cases of active TB were reported globally in 2016 with 1.8 million deaths.

However, MOH stressed that TB is curable and if proper precautions are taken, the spread of TB is preventable.

The ministry said that there is "no need for workplaces or places where a recently diagnosed active TB case has visited to be closed."

"Close contacts found to have latent TB infection are not infectious and can continue their activities as usual," MOH added.