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Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Ms Joan Pereira
MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC

Question No. 3069

To ask the Minister for Health (a) how does the number of tuberculosis cases in the first half of this year compare with the previous two years; (b) what are the age groups most affected by tuberculosis; and (c) what measures are currently in place to reduce the spread of tuberculosis.

Written Answer

Data from the first half of this year (from January to June) is not available.  The incidence of cases with active tuberculosis (TB) disease in 2020 and 2021 were 34 and 33 cases per 100,000 resident population.  In 2021, almost half of the new cases with TB disease were aged 60 years old and older.

The recent numbers reported through screening at Block 2 in Jalan Bukit Merah includes both active TB disease and latent TB infection, and these cases are currently undergoing medical evaluation to determine their TB status. A large proportion of the cases will likely be latent TB infection. Latent TB infection is not infectious and demonstrates no symptoms. Many older Singaporeans were exposed to and infected with TB when they were younger, when the incidence of TB in Singapore was much higher. Up to 30% of older Singaporeans have latent TB infection. But they remain non-infectious and may not experience any symptoms. Only 1 in 10 persons with latent TB infection may progress to active TB disease during their lifetime.

Early detection and prompt treatment of active TB disease is key to controlling the spread of TB. Persons with symptoms of TB, such as prolonged cough for more than three weeks, should seek medical attention early to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment. Early treatment ensures that patients are rapidly rendered non-infectious, thereby reducing further spread. Adherence to treatment until completion is also crucial to prevent the recurrence of TB or the development of drug resistance.

To further reduce spread of TB, the National Tuberculosis Programme conducts contact investigations to identify persons who have had close and prolonged contact with infectious TB cases. Contacts are tested for TB for early detection and treatment of the disease to contain transmission.

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