A man died of diphtheria at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun, Singapore. Photo: Google Maps, Center for Disease Control & Prevention

A 21-year-old construction worker from Bangladesh, who had not travelled out of Singapore recently, died of diphtheria on Friday – the first confirmed local case of the disease in the country in 25 years.

The deceased previously worked at Teban Gardens in Jurong East, and lived in a workers’ dormitory on Yishun 7 Avenue, the Chinese language newspaper Lianhe Wanbao (Singapore) reported on Monday.

Fever and swelling of the neck were noted in the patient as early as July 30. On August 1, two days after those symptoms, the man visited Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where he was immediately taken in for care and treated in quarantine.

The man, whose respiratory sample tested positive for Corynebacterium diphtheriae, died after five days of intensive hospital care and treatment.

Two of the 48 people who had close contact with the deceased patient reportedly suffered from sore throats. So, they have been isolated for further assessment, while the rest of the close contacts have been prescribed with preventive medication and a booster diphtheria vaccine. Respiratory samples were taken from each to a laboratory for testing.

The Ministry of Health has assured the public that the risk of the respiratory disease spreading in the community remains low, as 96 to 98 percent of Singaporean children aged two have to be mandatorily vaccinated against diphtheria. That practice has been in place under the National Childhood Immunization Program since 1962, according to a report by The Straits Times.  

Diphtheria is a contagious bacterial disease that is transmitted from person to person via the respiratory route through close contact with an affected person. Symptoms include fever or chills, sore throat, swelling of the neck and nasal discharge.

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