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Tuberculosis in Singapore

Pacific Prime Singapore discusses the recent Tuberculosis scare in Singapore, what this means for you and your kids, and how health insurance can help.

Posted on Dec 10, 2015 by rob.mcbroom

A very startling headline has shaken up Singapore this week, as nearly 200 children have been required to undergo tests as the result of some fear that they may have been infected with Tuberculosis (TB). As it is not only children that can contract Tuberculosis, it is good for all people to familiarize themselves with the disease so that they can protect themselves, as well as their families from it. Here, Pacific Prime Singapore takes a look at the most recent concerns over Tuberculosis in Singapore, basic background information on the disease, and how you can take steps to protect your household.

Tuberculosis in Singapore: Now and then

Of the 178 children that were called to National University Hospital this past week for Tuberculosis testing, 131 of them are under 2 years of age, and 34 of them had previously undergone an organ transplant procedure. So why are children the ones under suspicion for possibly contracting TB? This is simply because a pediatric nurse at NUH is now confirmed to have the illness, and possibly has been a carrier of the disease since July of 2015.

Luckily for the nurse’s patients and co-workers alike, as of yet no screenings have revealed infection in any other individual.

Historically, Tuberculosis has existed in Singapore for some time, although actual cases have fallen greatly over time. In 1960 TB affected 307 out of 100,000 people in the city-state. While throughout the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s the incidence of the disease hovered at 49-57 cases per 100,000 people. 1997 marked a turning point for TB in Singapore, as the Singapore Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (STEP) was implemented. Since then, TB measurements in 2007 were found to have fallen to 35 out of 100,000 Singapore residents.

What to watch out for

Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease, most commonly found in the lungs, that is especially odd in one particular way, and that is that the bacteria may remain inactive in the body to the point where their carrier never becomes ill or shows any symptoms. However, if the bacteria becomes active, symptoms will develop, which include:

  • Fatigue
  • Persistent cough
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blood-stained sputum
  • Night sweats
  • Fever and chills

While TB is primarily a disease of the lungs, it can also affect other parts of the body, including the liver, brain, intestines, kidneys, joints, bones, lymph nodes, and pericardium (the covering around the heart.

Protection and Treatment

As tuberculosis is an airborne disease, it can be quite easy to spread. Like other airborne diseases, this makes TB especially dangerous in large urban areas with high population density. If you are aware of a real tuberculosis threat, make sure to wear the highest quality mask you can find if you must interact with other people in the area, or try to avoid any areas of a suspected outbreak entirely. One interesting point to note, however, is that the disease cannot be spread by touch, such as via a handshake, or even through contact with bodily fluids.

In many cases, the inactive TB bacteria become active when a person’s immune system weakens. As a general rule of thumb, keeping our immune system strong is a good idea, but this is especially true if you have reason to believe you may have been exposed to Tuberculosis. To do this, focus on keeping fit through proper nutrition and exercise, get plenty of rest, avoid being exposed to cold weather, diminish stress levels, and try to avoid immune-system-weakening activities, like drinking alcohol, and smoking.

Because affected people can be asymptomatic for some time after infection, testing for TB is important. Luckily all it takes is a quick poke of the skin with some shallow needles or a chest radiograph to determine if somebody has TB. Even without symptoms, treatment is necessary, as it may take some time for symptoms to surface. Once TB has been contracted, there are drugs that are available to treat it. If the TB bacteria are not yet active, pharmaceutical treatment is just that much easier. The downside of TB treatment is that it can regularly take 6 months or more to complete.

Of course, as with all illnesses, should you or a family member fall ill with TB, it is imperative to have access to quick, quality medical treatment. If you want to be able to avail yourself of the best private hospitals in Singapore without fear of having to break the bank, Pacific Prime Singapore can help. Contact one of our knowledgeable agents today for plan comparisons on international health insurance policies from top insurers, as well as a free price quote.


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