SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Six people have been hospitalised following outbreaks of gastroenteritis at MindChamps pre-schools in Changi Airport, Tanglin and Bishan.
A total of 89 people – 79 children and 10 staff – reported having gastroenteritis symptoms after eating food prepared by Nosh Cuisine between May 17 and 29, according to a joint statement by the Ministry of Health, Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and Early Childhood Development Agency on Tuesday (May 30) evening.
Those hospitalised are in stable condition, while the rest of those affected have sought outpatient treatment, self-medicated, or recovered without treatment, the authorities added.
The outbreak at the Tanglin pre-school affected 45 children and five teachers, while at the MindChamps pre-school in Changi Airport Terminal 3, 28 children and five staff fell ill. Six children at the MindChamps pre-school in Bishan were affected.
SFA has suspended Nosh Cuisine’s food business operations from Tuesday until further notice, in view of the suspected ongoing transmission. The caterer is required to clean and sanitise its premises in MacPherson, including equipment and utensils, and dispose of all ready-to-eat food and perishable food items.
All food handlers and the appointed food hygiene officer have to re-attend and pass relevant food safety courses before they are allowed to resume work.
The authorities are investigating the three pre-school incidents.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, a MindChamps spokesman said the pre-schools working with Nosh Cuisine have made alternative food arrangements and parents have been updated of the situation.
The spokesman added: “We wholeheartedly empathise with the children and families who have been affected and sincerely apologise for this unfortunate incident. It is consoling to know that many of our affected children are well and back in school.
“We will continue to work closely with the authorities to do whatever it takes to alleviate this situation.”
A 38-year-old parent, who wanted to be known only as Emily, said her two-year-old daughter was hospitalised at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital last Friday after coming down with a fever of 40.9 deg C and having diarrhoea, with blood in her stool. Her daughter goes to MindChamps’ pre-school in Tanglin.
She said hospital tests indicated that her daughter had contracted salmonella, an infection that can result from eating food contaminated by Salmonella enteritidis bacteria.
A salmonella infection can be fatal for young children, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems.
Emily, a housewife, said doctors were reluctant to prescribe her toddler antibiotics due to the girl’s young age, but the medication had to be administered eventually when her child showed no sign of recovery.
A man who declined to be named said two of his grandchildren, aged 4½ and 2½ years old, started feeling unwell last Friday. Both children showed symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. Both attend the pre-school in Tanglin.
The younger child was hospitalised on Monday and was later confirmed to have salmonella. The older child recovered over time.
In messages from teachers at MindChamps pre-school@Tanglin that were sent to parents and seen by The Straits Times, parents were told last Friday that the school was investigating reports of children experiencing diarrhoea and vomiting.
“We have been in close contact with families affected and have carried out cleaning and disinfection,” one such message read.
Another message sent on Sunday said food samples from the pre-school’s lunch caterer have been sent for testing and that the results will likely be out between Wednesday and next Monday.
Emily said she appreciated that the pre-school has been prompt in updating parents about the outbreak. She added, however, that if contaminated food was the source of the issue, a review needs to be done to ensure that it does not happen again.
“The young children, especially, can fall very ill when something like this happens,” she said.
The latest incidents are not the first outbreaks of gastroenteritis at MindChamps pre-schools. In 2019, 30 children and an employee developed gastroenteritis symptoms at the school’s Tanglin branch, which saw two being hospitalised.