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Health officials take steps as tuberculosis case is confirmed at secondary school

Health authorities in Barbados are concerned that a young child has contracted tuberculosis (TB), and are closely monitoring the situation to ensure the highly infectious disease does not spread.

 Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Elizabeth Ferdinand told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that the secondary school student, the identity of whom she has declined to disclose, is under treatment and the child’s contacts are being checked to ensure they are well.

“That’s the normal procedure that you do for any investigation of an infectious disease . . . you must follow up the contacts and that is what we are doing,” she said.

“But it’s just not so very common in young children and young people. So that’s why it’s a concern to us, that such a young person had come down with it.”

Ferdinand said a public health team from the Maurice Byer Polyclinic in St Peter visited the school today, a day after the child fell ill.

She said the officers spoke to the students and teachers about modes of transmission, symptoms, treatment and preventive measures regarding TB and were asked to complete a questionnaire.

The immunization cards of about 170 students were also checked to ascertain if they had been vaccinated with the BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin).

That check also involved “a rapid assessment of the students as a precautionary measure”.

“So we are continuing to monitor the situation and to follow up the children,” pointed out the senior medical official.

Yesterday, parents were notified by letter of the possibility that some students may have been exposed to a respiratory illness and were asked to send their children’s immunization cards to the school for a review, Ferdinand stated.

She said parents of students who had not been vaccinated with BCG would receive a letter asking them to bring their children to the Maurice Byer Polyclinic for further management.

TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium bovis. It is spread through the air from one person to another, when an individual with TB of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or otherwise transmit respiratory fluids through the air.

The classic symptoms of active TB infection include chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

TB may be treated, Ferdinand assured, by taking several drugs, usually for a six to nine-month period; but if not treated it can be fatal.


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