Failure to identify TB outbreak source a ‘disappointment’

EDUCATION Minister Mary Coughlan has described the failure to identify the source of an outbreak of TB in a Cork school as a “disappointment”.

The minister said yesterday she was happy with the work undertaken by the HSE to deal with the TB issue at Scoil Iósaf Naofa in Ballintemple, Cork, but added that it was a reminder to everyone that the disease is still present in Ireland.

Pupils of the Crab Lane school started their new term yesterday – a week after most other schools – because of the TB outbreak which saw 25 children contracting the illness.

The return to school came after two weeks of screening more than 220 pupils and staff at St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork city.

Speaking yesterday during a visit to Kilkenny, Ms Coughlan said the TB outbreak is a “matter for the HSE” and the county medical officer.

“I’m sure it is a matter of disappointment to the county medical officer that they are not in a position to definitively say where the TB has come from,” she said.

“But it just re-emphasises the fact that we continue to have TB in this country even though we might have thought it was gone many, many years ago, as we have other diseases in the country which – by their nature as they can pass on quickly – our young people in school can be very susceptible to.”

The minister added that the matter has been dealt with “appropriately by the HSE and also by the principal and staff of the school” and it will be a matter for the HSE to address the source when it is found. “But I’m happy with the work the HSE is doing.”

School principal Denis O’Sullivan said on Monday that, while the source of the outbreak didn’t appear to be within the environs of Scoil Iósaf Naofa, it was a matter of concern to the wider community that the source hasn’t yet been found.

Meanwhile, the minister said she is due to be briefed by the board of Fás in relation to recent revelations surrounding training courses and certification.

“I want to make sure that we have quality assurance and that any steps that are necessary in the investigation and dealing with the outcome of the investigation will be dealt with,” she said.

The Government will soon have “a new strategy” to deal with the country’s training needs, she said, “arising from the deliberations of the board”.


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