• Vol. 39 No. 7, 507–512
  • 15 July 2010

Epidemiological Characteristics of Cholera in Singapore, 1992-2007

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ABSTRACT

Introduction: We carried out an epidemiological review of cholera in Singapore to determine its trends and the factors contributing to its occurrence.

Materials and Methods: Epidemiological data of all notified cases of cholera maintained by the Communicable Diseases Division, Ministry of Health, for the period 1992 to 2007 were collated and analysed. Case-control studies were carried out in outbreaks to determine the source of infection and mode of transmission. Linear patterns in age and ethnic distribution of cholera cases were assessed using χ2 test for trend.

Results: There were a total of 210 cholera cases reported between 1992 and 2007. The incidence of cholera declined from 17 cases in 1992 to 7 cases in 2007. About a quarter of the cases were imported from endemic countries in the region. Between 76% and 95% of the reported cases were local residents. Four elderly patients with comorbidities and who sought medical treatment late died, giving a case-fatality rate of 1.9%. Vibrio cholerae 01, biotype El Tor, serotype Ogawa, accounted for 83.8% of the cases. The vehicles of transmission identified in outbreaks included raw fish, undercooked seafood and iced drinks cross-contaminated with raw seafood.

Conclusion: With the high standard of environmental hygiene and sanitation, a comprehensive epidemiological surveillance system and licensing and control of food establishments, cholera could not gain a foothold in Singapore despite it being situated in an endemic region. However, health education of the public on the importance of personal and food hygiene is of paramount importance in preventing foodborne outbreaks. Physicians should also maintain a high level of suspicion of cholera in patients presenting with severe gastroenteritis, especially those with a recent travel history to endemic countries.


Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that usually presents as abrupt massive watery diarrhoea and vomiting. The causative organism is Vibrio cholerae which is divided into serogroups based on the somatic O antigen. Only O1 and O139 serogroups are known to cause epidemic and pandemic disease.

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