THE number of primary school children infected with tuberculosis at a Cork school has risen to 25 since screening began over a week ago.
The figure includes five children with full-blown TB and 20 with a latent form of the disease. In addition, approximately 100 children at Ballintemple National School have yet to be screened, so the final figure with TB infection could be substantially higher.
To date, over half of the 220 children attending the school at Crab Lane have been screened, as well as all school staff.
While three staff members were referred for consultant respiratory physician review as a precaution, no case of active TB has been detected in any staff member.
In a letter from the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) department of public health to parents, seen by the Irish Examiner, parents are advised that:
* No definitive source of infection has been confirmed.
* The strain of TB present in the children has not been identified.
* The confirmed child cases of active TB have been detected in two children in the current second class and three children in the current fourth class.
Parents have also been advised that there will be “no further delay in the school reopening”. The new term should have commenced this week but was deferred until September 6 to facilitate screening.
However, Dr Margaret O’Sullivan, public health consultant, stresses in the letter that “it is very important that no one returns to the school unless they have been screened and advised by the investigating medical teams” — except the new junior infant class.
Dr O’Sullivan, who is chair of the outbreak control team, also stresses that it “is crucial to appreciate that any child returning to the school who has been diagnosed with active TB is… on treatment and... not currently infectious”.
In addition, children with latent TB are not infectious and all have been advised regarding a course of preventative treatment.
The letter states that the children infected with TB “involve a number of classes, but with a concentration in the 2009/10 third class children”.
“We would emphasise that other children, or staff, are not at risk from contact with either the cases of active TB or latent TB,” Dr O’Sullivan wrote.
The first child case of TB was notified to public health officials on July 29. A second was notified on August 10 and a link made with the first case and an outbreak identified. A third child case was notified on August 17.
Screening for the disease, which began on Monday August 23, continues at St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork city. In 2007, 18 child cases of TB and three adult cases were diagnosed at two Cork crèches. Cork, which only began vaccinating newborns in 2008, has historically recorded a higher incidence of the disease than the rest of the country.
* HSE information line: 1800 742800.
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