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Infectious Diseases & A High-Population Density In Singapore: What These Mean For Healthcare Companies

It was reported by The Straits Times last week that six residents in a block of flats in Ang Mo Kio had caught the same drug-resistant strain of the tuberculosis germ over a four-year period.

The cases are interesting too as doctors aren’t really sure how the six patients had caught the disease. The six of them had come from four different households who did not know or interact with one another – prolonged close contact is a typical way for tuberculosis to spread.

Tuberculosis, an airborne disease, was common in Singapore in the 1960s. But, as the decades passed, it was brought under control steadily.

Unfortunately, Singapore’s Ministry of Health had reported that there has been a resurgence of tuberculosis in recent years. The low for the disease came in 2007 when there was just 1,256 cases reported. The incidences of people contracting tuberculosis has since increased to 1,454 in 2014.

According to an article by the National Healthcare Group, ”crowded and poorly-ventilated environments can facilitate the spread” of tuberculosis.

While the majority of Singaporeans are not living in conditions that can be described as being anywhere close to unsanitary with poor ventilation, it’s still a fact that Singapore is one of the cities with the highest population densities in the world.

For me, the recent rise in the number of tuberculosis cases has cast a spotlight on the possible healthcare dangers from infectious diseases that are confronting the general population in Singapore as a result of the high population density here.

I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of outbreaks of infectious diseases, but from the viewpoint of an investor, business activity for healthcare companies may get a boost in such events.

In Singapore’s stock market, there are a number of companies with big exposure to the field of healthcare services in Singapore. This includes companies such as Raffles Medical Group Ltd (SGX: BSL), IHH Healthcare Bhd (SGX: Q0F) and Healthway Medical Corp Ltd (SGX: 5NG).

There may be other factors at play that could lead to an increased demand for healthcare services in Asia in the future. An important one would be Asia’s growing and aging population.

The United Nations’ 2015 World Population Prospects report had projected that Asia’s population would rise from 4.39 billion in 2015 to 5.27 billion in 2050. Meanwhile, those aged 60 and above would also climb from 12% of the population in 2015 to 25% by 2050.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Ong Kai Kiat does not own shares in any companies mentioned.