Bangladeshi worker dies in diphtheria in Singapore

A 21-year-old Bangladeshi construction worker died of diphtheria, in what is the first local case of the contagious bacterial disease in 25 years, according to report of The Star.

A total of 48 others who worked directly with or lived close to the worker have been identified for further checks, with two “close contacts” now in isolation wards at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on August 6.

As he had not travelled out of Singapore recently, he was likely to have been infected here, it added.

“Investigations are ongoing to determine the source of the infection,” the ministry said, in response to queries from The Sunday Times.

The worker, who lived in a dormitory in Yishun Avenue 7 and worked at Teban Gardens, developed a fever and neck swelling on July 30. He sought medical help at KTPH, where he was immediately isolated and hospitalised, but died five days later.

A respiratory sample taken from the patient tested positive for the bacterium causing diphtheria.

It stressed that the risk of diphtheria spreading in Singapore is low, as Singaporeans have had compulsory vaccination against it as part of the National Childhood Immunisation Programme since 1962. Vaccination coverage for diphtheria among two-year-olds is at 96% to 98%, said MOH.

MOH said evidence of previous vaccination upon arrival to Singapore is not required for foreigners, as diphtheria is included in the childhood vaccination schedule of most countries.

The contagious disease causes an inflammation of the mucous membranes, and could result in fatal heart and nerve damage as well.

Treatment involves administering diphtheria antitoxin, as well as antibiotics.

Infectious diseases specialist Dr Leong How Nam said the worker who died may have been infected by an asymptomatic carrier of the bacteria, where the germ could be carried at the back of one’s throat, or by a person suffering from a mild infection.

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