Dr Gulam Khandaker.
Dr Gulam Khandaker.

Health unit investigates evidence of tuberculosis exposure

THE Central Queensland Health tuberculosis unit is investigating whether a resident of a Rockhampton aged care facility has been exposed to the disease after a worker tested positive last month.

Director of Public Health Dr Gulam Khandaker said the CQ Health TB Unit had not identified any infectious TB cases related to that primary case, but a small number of staff members had evidence of latent TB (not infectious), most likely acquired overseas years ago.

CQ Health confirmed one resident of the facility had been identified with evidence of possible exposure, but that resident had no symptoms of tuberculosis and was not infectious.

The TB Unit is investigating whether this is the result of a past infection or transmission from the recent case.

So far in 2020, there have been eight reported cases of TB in the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service footprint, up from the five-year average of five cases per year.

While not linked, the case at the aged care facility followed a TB case in a young student at North Rockhampton State High School in October.

The NRSHS case resulted in the quick detection and treatment of a further three cases of non-infectious TB, out of 135 people identified as close contacts of the student.

Dr Khandaker said in Australia, health officials worked quickly and efficiently to trace contacts of any TB case and screen them to identify any further cases and allow early treatment.

“This is how we keep the disease strictly controlled because TB can be cured through the use of appropriate medication but can be serious if not diagnosed and treated,” he said.

“The risk of TB is higher in people born in countries of high TB prevalence, and that risk remains significant lifelong without treatment.

“Evidence suggest that up to 5 per cent of the population may have latent TB without having symptoms or being infectious.”

GPs are encouraged to consider TB when treating patients with a persistent cough, coughing up blood, unintentional weight loss or night sweats.

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