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Pek Kio hawker centre to close for 2 days after spike in stomach flu cases

SINGAPORE — Pek Kio Market and Food Centre will be closed for cleaning and disinfection on Wednesday (May 25) and Thursday after more than 180 cases of gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, were reported in its vicinity since last Monday (May 16).

A banner placed up at Pek Kio Market and Food Centre announcing a closure. Photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY

A banner placed up at Pek Kio Market and Food Centre announcing a closure. Photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY

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SINGAPORE — Pek Kio Market and Food Centre will be closed for cleaning and disinfection on Wednesday (May 25) and Thursday after more than 180 cases of gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, were reported in its vicinity since last Monday (May 16).

Investigations into the possible source are still ongoing, but many of the people who came down with symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain in the past week in the Owen Road area had visited Pek Kio Market and Food Centre, the Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA), Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and PUB said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

The patients typically recovered within a few days, although seven patients are warded at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for observation. The statement added that all of them are recovering well.

A general practitioner at Owen Road first flagged an unusual increase in the number of gastroenteritis cases last Thursday, and checks showed other clinics in the area witnessed a similar surge. The authorities said food and environmental samples from food outlets in the area were collected and the stool samples of those affected tested positive for Rotavirus, which is commonly known as gastric flu.

Stallholders and the Tanjong Pagar Town Council’s cleaning contractor will conduct a thorough clean-up of the centre, including the cleaning of all utensils and the disinfection of all dining tables and chairs, food preparation surfaces, walls and floors, and the public toilets, including all toilet fixtures such as taps, door handles and wash basins.

The NEA will also be issuing advisories to other stakeholders in the area to remind all premises owners to maintain high hygiene standards of public contact surfaces. The MOH and NEA also advised members of the public who have visited the Owen Road area to monitor their health status closely, and seek medical attention early if they experience symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, fever or abdominal pain.

When TODAY visited the hawker centre Tuesday evening, the handful of stalls still open for business had some patrons who shrugged off news of the outbreak.

Some residents, however, expressed concern. One of them, who wanted to be known only as Mr Choo, 49, said he usually eats at food establishments in the area with his teenage children and wife, and his family fell ill with gastric flu last week. Mr Choo said his 16-year-old son, who fell ill last Monday, was hospitalised from last Thursday to Saturday, after his condition worsened. “His whole body (felt) weak and he couldn’t eat, so he asked to be warded and received antibiotics through a drip,” he said.

Hawkers hoped the source could be singled out to avoid affecting business. Mr Seah Bok Seng, 56, who runs Pei Kio BBQ Seafood, said: “We hope that the cause of the food poisoning can be identified soon, so that we can continue selling.”

Mr Lim Yang Meng, 65, who owns a provision store beside the hawker centre, said a drinks stall there had closed for three days last week after the owner and assistant fell ill.

An assistant at Everwell Clinic and Surgery on Owen Road said there have been 120 gastroenteritis cases since last Monday, up from the norm of about 20 cases a week. They saw 14 cases in the morning and afternoon on Tuesday. The clinic assistant expressed concern about a possible sewerage problem in the area, complaining of a persistent stench emanating from the drains.

Dr Tan Bee Gawh, a physician from Ever Spring Medical Group along Cambridge Road, also raised concerns about a rodent problem in the area, which she raised to the town council about six months ago. 

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