Singaporean woman with GBS infection underwent five hour-long brain surgery
Just as we thought we had heard the last of GBS (Group B Streptococcus) cases, we came across more bad news on social media.
The Facebook post, which included a close-up photo of a woman’s shaven head with two surgical wounds, had gone viral on Sunday, Aug 2.
The photo was accompanied by the following text:
“These are the scars on the head of my ex-colleague, Priscilla Wong-Yamaguchi, from a brain infection caused by Group B streptococcus (GBS) from 鱼生 or raw fish. She was admitted to hospital on July 5 with the infection and thought she was ok and got herself discharged on July 15. The next day, she could barely move her right side, shower or speak properly and was plagued with headaches for the next 4 days. She got an MRI on July 19 and doctors found that the infection on the right side had spread to the left and pus had developed. The swelling was what caused the immobility of her right side. After much deliberation, she decided to go for a five-hour surgery to have two 8cm incisions (seen here) to drain out the pus. Thank goodness she’s on the road to recovery and has been discharged.
For the skeptics who think GBS isn’t real or won’t happen to you, you’re looking at what can happen. Priscilla isn’t a friend of a friend and she’s given me permission to share her story. Thank you Priscilla for this. I’m sure it’s going to be very helpful. To everyone else, help share the hell out of this.”
As of today, the post appears to have been removed, but here’s a screenshot:
What reportedly happened:
On July 5, the 40-year-old woman was admitted to hospital with a GBS infection of the brain. She had eaten raw fish at a hawker stall before taking ill.
On July 15, she was discharged from the hospital. However, her condition took a turn for the worse the next day.
For four days, she had headaches as well as difficulty speaking and moving the right side of her body.
On July 19, she underwent an MRI brain scan and doctors discovered that the infection on the right had spread to the left.
Pus had developed and the swelling caused the immobility on her right side.
The woman decided to undergo a five-hour surgical procedure to drain the pus. This involved making two 8cm-long incisions on her head.
We have contacted the woman for comments but have not yet received a reply.
What the local authorities last said:
In a joint statement dated July 24, the Ministry of Health, National Environment Agency and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore note that there have been a recent spike in Group B Streptococcus (GBS) cases at public hospitals.
Between Jan 1 and June 30 this year, 238 cases have been recorded. The annual average between 2011 and 2014 is 150. Of these patients, more than half were aged 55 and above.
Although the government agencies repeat their previous comment that there is no proven link between eating raw fish and serious GBS disease in humans, they are studying the possible link to raw fish consumption – as well as other causes.
AVA and NEA have been conducting field investigations at sources and distribution chains of raw fish.
MOH has asked all hospitals to submit their case listings of patients with GBS infections for this year.
While investigations are ongoing, preliminary findings include the discovery of traces of GBS in some samples of raw fish.
Authorities add that more cases will need to be studied for a more definite conclusion.
Meanwhile, NEA has advised licensed food stall holders to temporarily stop the sales of raw fish dishes using Song fish and Toman fish.
Vulnerable groups of people, especially young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic illness such as diabetes, are advised to avoid raw ready-to-eat food, such as raw oysters and sashimi.
The authorities add that GBS found in fish do not pose an issue if the fish is well cooked before consumption.
Another update is due when investigations have been concluded.
Update (Aug 28)
On Aug 23, the Ministry of Health announced that the number of GBS cases has gone down. The release reads:
“A downtrend in the number of GBS cases was seen from mid-July 2015, since licensed foodshop and foodstall holders were advised by NEA to stop the sales of raw fish dishes using Song fish (also known as Asian Bighead Carp) and Toman fish (also known as Snakehead fish). While investigations by MOH, AVA and NEA are ongoing, the number of cases notified to MOH has decreased to an average of three cases per week in the last three weeks, similar to the baseline level before the outbreak of about three per week. This compares with an average of 20 cases per week seen since the beginning of 2015.
AVA has investigated along the entire food supply chain of these fish. Tests have so far not detected the same strain of GBS that has been detected in humans. Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure, NEA’s advisory to licensed foodshop and foodstall holders to withhold the sales of raw fish dishes using Song and Toman fish continues to be in place. Further investigations are being conducted by MOH, AVA and NEA.
As a general precaution, vulnerable groups of people, especially young children, pregnant women, elderly persons, or people with chronic illness such as diabetes, should continue to exercise caution by avoiding raw ready-to-eat food.”