Eastern Health is investigating a confirmed case of tuberculosis (TB) in a student attending Holy Heart of Mary High School in St. John’s.
Risk to others deemed to be low.
A news release notes that public health officials with Eastern Health are notifying close school contacts, and will be following up with these individuals directly to arrange for TB testing.
Close contacts are those who have regular, prolonged contact with an individual diagnosed with TB. Parents of students identified as contacts are also being contacted by phone within 24 hours.
Additionally, Eastern Health has contacted the Eastern School District, the school administration, and a letter will be sent home to parents of students identified as close contacts to inform them of the investigation.
“The risk to students who are identified as close contacts is anticipated to be very low,” said Dr. Allison, Medical Officer of Health for Eastern Health.
“Any individual who is identified as a contact will be notified by us directly — this means that if parents have not been notified about their child, the child is not considered to be a close contact.”
People notified as close contacts will be offered TB skin testing, where the usual screening test is the mantoux or tuberculin skin test (TST.)
A positive test will require further investigation, including a chest X-Ray or blood work. Once this screening work has been completed, individuals will be referred to their family doctor for follow-up.
Eastern Health has set up a telephone line to respond to any arising questions from close contacts.
The release notes that most people with positive tests will have dormant or latent tuberculosis, which is not infectious. However, because there is a small chance of becoming active over time, they will be recommended medication which can be taken over a nine-month period to prevent disease.
A very small percentage of people who are exposed and develop positive tests may go on to active disease for which treatment is required to cure the infection.
Tuberculosis is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Active TB usually infects the lungs, but can also infect other parts of the body, including the kidneys, spine and brain.
The disease-causing bacteria are spread in the air, such as through coughing, laughing, sneezing, singing or talking. Symptoms may include a cough that lasts for two weeks or more, chest pain, loss of appetite, fever, feeling weak and night sweats. Treatment to cure TB normally involves taking medication for a period of time, which may range between six to 12 months.