230 people at Zhenghua Primary School hit by gastroenteritis

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SINGAPORE — A primary school in Bukit Panjang has been hit by a gastroenteritis outbreak last week, with 230 reportedly affected as of 5pm on Wednesday (24 April).

About 200 students from Zhenghua Primary School, located at 9 Fajar Road, had experienced symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain last Wednesday and Thursday, said its principal Constance Loke in response to media queries on Thursday.

More than 90 per cent of affected students have recovered and returned to school by Monday, said Loke. Two students who were hospitalised have since been discharged and are back at school.

“The health and well-being of our students and staff are of utmost importance,” she added. “The school is monitoring the situation closely and working with the relevant government agencies to ascertain the cause of the incident.”

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said in a statement on Thursday that a joint inspection of the school canteen was conducted last Wednesday where 16 food handlers were sent for stool screening.

Food and environmental swabs were also taken for laboratory analysis, the joint statement added.

The canteen, which was closed a day after the inspection, resumed partial operations on Wednesday, said Loke. It will resume full operations next Monday.

For now, the school has engaged a licensed caterer to bring in packed food for the students during recess and lunchtime, she added.

Loke said that the school has also taken steps to sanitise common areas, water coolers, the canteen and the classrooms of the affected students.

“The school will continue its daily cleaning routine and teachers will continue to remind students to practise strict personal hygiene. We also regularly remind canteen food handlers about the importance of food hygiene in the handling and preparation of food. Our Food Hygiene Officer also conducts regular checks of the canteen stalls,” she said.

The MOH and the SFA said that people who have gastroenteritis typically experience diarrhoea or vomiting.

It is important for affected persons to rehydrate by drinking plenty of fluids and to seek medical attention if necessary,” added the authorities.

The contagious disease can be developed in several ways: eating or drinking contaminated food items, touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated or having the mouth coming into contact with unwashed hands. 

“The food supply chain is extensive and food can be contaminated at any point in time,” said the authorities, who called for good food hygiene and safety processes, as well as infection prevention and control practices to be adopted by key stakeholders, including the industry and public.

Last month, over 250 people were taken ill in a gastroenteritis outbreak across 13 Sparkletots pre-school centres and one P.L.A.N. Student Care Centre.

In February, 30 children and one employee were affected following a gastroenteritis outbreak at the MindChamps pre-school’s Tanglin branch.

In November last year, another outbreak of the disease linked to the River Valley branch of Spize Restaurant saw 72 people affected. Among them was Sats employee Fadli Salleh, 38, who subsequently died as a result of his illness.

Related stories:

Gastroenteritis outbreak: Number of cases rises to 257, 1 new PCF Sparkletots centre affected

Man dies after gastroenteritis outbreak at Spize Restaurant at River Valley

When food poisoning turns deadly