Dear A.S.S. Editor

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is screening people who came into close contact with a Bangladeshi construction worker who died on Friday (Aug 4) from diphtheria. The 21-year-old worker was likely to have been infected in Singapore as he had not travelled out of the country recently, said MOH in a news release on Saturday.

This is believed to be the first such case in 25 years. MOH said the last local case of infection was reported in 1992 while the last imported case was in 1996. The Bangladeshi worker had developed symptoms such as fever and swelling of the neck on Jul 30. He sought medical treatment at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on Aug 1 and was immediately isolated and hospitalised, said the ministry. He died three days later.

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted from one person to another through close contact, through air droplets from coughing or sneezing. It can cause infection of the airway, breathing difficulties and may lead to death in five to 10 per cent of cases. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, swelling of the neck and nasal discharge. It can be treated with an antitoxin and antibiotics.

The risk of diphtheria spreading in Singapore is low, said MOH, as it is compulsory for all children here to be vaccinated against the bacteria. According to the Health Ministry, the worker who died from diphtheria lived in at dormitory at Yishun Avenue 7 and worked at Teban Gardens.

It is screening those who came into close contact with him. So far, 48 people have been identified for further assessment, said MOH, of which two developed a sore throat since Aug 3. They have been isolated at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Sadiq Khan

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