Singapore health officials say that the number of tuberculosis cases increased slightly in 2014 compared to the the previous year.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) was notified of 1,454 new cases of tuberculosis (TB) among Singapore residents in 2014, which is higher than the 1,420 cases in 2013.
Seventy percent of Singapore residents that tested positive for TB in 2014 were of Chinese ethnicity.
Ten cases in 2014 were reported in children under 10 years of age.
Correspondingly, the incidence rate was 37.6 cases per 100,000 population in 2014, compared to 36.9 cases per 100,000 in 2013.
Although the number of cases increased slightly, the most significant difference was the increase in cases of extrapulmonary TB from 171 in 2013 to 234 in 2014.
The emergence of multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains a serious public health challenge. In 2014, Singapore had six new cases of MDR-TB, who were Singapore-born residents.
Concerning the TB situation with non-residents in Singapore, a decrease in cases of TB was seen in 2014 with 1,287 , compared to 1,381 in 2013.
The MOH says individuals who display TB symptoms (e.g. unexplained cough of 3 weeks or more) should seek medical attention early to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment. As part of social responsibility, proper cough etiquette (e.g. coughing into tissue) should also be observed to prevent transmission.
Generally, a TB patient becomes non-infectious after two weeks of appropriate treatment, a period covered by medical leave. There is thus no increased risk of infection in the workplace when a TB patient returns to work.
The full course of TB treatment takes six to nine months. If patients do not adhere to their medications, there is a higher chance of developing drug resistance, treatment failure, and future disease relapse.
Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) therefore remains a pillar of the Singapore TB Elimination Programme (STEP) as it is the best way of assuring patients’ adherence for the sake of their health and others’ around them.