TB cases rise to 37 as screening fails to find infection source

THE number of children diagnosed with tuberculosis at a Cork primary school has risen to 37, but the source of infection has still not been found even though screening of pupils and staff is complete.

More than 220 students and staff at Scoil Iósaf Naofa, Crab Lane, Ballintemple, have been screened over the past two weeks and additional screening is under way of staff who left the school last year, including substitute teachers and transition year students.

In a letter to parents seen by the Irish Examiner, HSE public health consultant Dr Margaret O’Sullivan said one further active case of TB had been detected in the past week, bringing the total number of children with full-blown TB to six, and a further 11 children had been identified with latent TB, bringing that number to 31.

Latent TB is not infectious, but if untreated, can develop into active TB.

Treating paediatricians have stressed that children on treatment are not infectious.

No case of active TB has been detected in staff. The particular strain of TB has not been identified.

Yesterday, school principal Denis O’Sullivan said he was not surprised further cases were detected considering the large number of diagnoses in the first week of screening.

“The figures last week followed a trawl of half the students so we would have anticipated that the final figure would be higher. Now we just want to move on and get on with the schooling,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

Jonathan Hourihane, professor of paediatrics and child health at University College Cork and consultant paediatrician in allergy and immunology, said it “remained his position” that there could be a case for compensating children infected with diseases preventable by immunisation in areas such as Cork where the Health Service Executive (HSE) had not offered routine BCG vaccination for 36 years, at variance with national policy.

Prof Hourihane previously raised the issue of compensation with the Vaccine Damages Steering Group.

Routine vaccination against TB was withdrawn in Cork in 1972 and only reinstated in 2008 following an outbreak during which 18 children attending two creches were infected. The HSE has not yet confirmed if children affected by the latest outbreak will be prioritised for BCG vaccination.

For parents seeking further information in relation to the latest outbreak, contact the HSE information line on 1800 742800.


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