Singaporeans are asking why they were not informed of the increase in typhoid fever cases in Singapore. There has been a spike in the reported cases of typhoid fever – a bacterial infection caused by Salmonella typhi that occurs most commonly from the consumption of contaminated drinking water or food – in recent weeks.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the increase in typhoid fever cases in Singapore in a memo issued to doctors. Local medical clinic, Etern Medical, re-published MOH’s memo on Facebook.

The memo from MOH said, “as of 13 Aug 2019, the Ministry of Health (MOH) was notified of 15 local cases of typhoid fever who developed symptoms since 13 July to 2 Aug 2019.

“As diagnosis of typhoid is by blood or stool tests typically done in hospitals, all 15 cases were hospitalised and are currently stable. 11 of them have since been discharged. Investigations are ongoing.”

While Etern Medical subsequently deleted the post, the post caught the attention of The Healthy Daily – a health news website that reported the spike in typhoid cases first, on 15 Aug. Other media outlets subsequently carried the news while MOH remained mum.

Besides the memo it circulated to doctors, a weekly infectious diseases bulletin for the week of 4-10 Aug 2019 shows that the number of typhoid fever cases in 2019 so far is significantly higher than the number of cases reported in the whole of 2018. The weekly bulletin was published by MOH’s Communicable Diseases Division:

MOH finally broke its silence on Sunday (18 Aug) – days after Etern Medical re-published the memo that was circulated to doctors.

In a joint statement, the MOH and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said that they have been notified of 18 local cases of typhoid fever, developing symptoms between 13 July and 4 August 2019.

The authorities said that they are still investigating the cause behind the outbreak and that all 18 cases were hospitalised. They added that those affected are currently in stable condition and that 14 patients have been discharged.

Singaporeans, however, have noted that it was days before they were informed of the outbreak and have asked why they were not informed of the outbreak earlier.

Revealing that he was “surprised” to find out about the outbreak from Facebook, forum letter writer David Soh Poh Huat asserted:

“As Singapore’s health authority, MOH should alert citizens as quickly as possible and not inform just doctors as it did in this instance.
“Informing the public would prime them to take pre-emptive measures, and also to be alert to family members displaying symptoms related to the disease. The health authority should not wait until it becomes an epidemic before issuing a press release.”

In a letter published by the national broadsheet today, Mr Soh indicated that it was unacceptable that the press statement came days after doctors were informed. He called on MOH to “explain the rationale behind not informing the public, as in my view, it was not sufficient to only inform clinics of the typhoid cases.”

Read his letter in full HERE.

The Healthy Daily was the first publication to break the news of typhoid fever outbreak in Singapore.