Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development:
(a) what are the courses of action when a potential teacher or staff tests positive for tuberculosis (TB) during pre-employment screening;
(b) what are the precautionary measures that affected and non-affected schools or child care centres should take; and
(c) what is the potential for TB spreading in schools or child care centres given exposure to an infected person.
Under the Child Care Centres Regulations, new staff members need to undergo a chest X-ray and be certified to be free from active tuberculosis by a registered medical practitioner before they can start work in centres. Centres are also advised to monitor for any persistent coughing among their staff members and children to allow for early diagnosis and treatment.
Child care centres are required by law to immediately report any known or suspected tuberculosis cases to parents of all children enrolled in their child care centre, a health officer, and the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). Similar precautionary measures are implemented in schools, which are required to pre-screen their staff before they start work, and report known tuberculosis cases to the Ministry of Education (MOE).
Upon diagnosing a case of active tuberculosis, the Tuberculosis Control Unit conducts free contact tracing among children and staff members to identify those at risk of contracting tuberculosis. These individuals will then be offered free tuberculosis screening. The Ministry of Health also notifies ECDA and MOE of cases in child care centres and schools respectively. Meanwhile, staff members who test positive for active tuberculosis are not permitted to enter the child care centre or school until they are certified to be fit for return by a registered medical practitioner.
Child care centres and schools can continue operations as long as they exclude persons who show symptoms of tuberculosis, such as persistent coughing, from their centres.
Persons without symptoms do not pose further risk of infection to others. Most persons with the latent form of tuberculosis also do not develop the infectious form. Furthermore, persons with active tuberculosis rapidly become non-infectious once they start their treatment. In any case, persons with symptoms cannot transmit the disease through activities, such as sharing utensils or hand shaking. Transmission is limited to close and prolonged contact with persons showing symptoms of tuberculosis.
Child care centres and schools generally abide by the precautionary measures and regulatory safeguards. They also work closely with the Tuberculosis Control Unit, and ECDA or MOE to ensure the safety of children.