As if the coronavirus isn’t enough, Sydney is now dealing with a tuberculosis scare as well.
Screening protocols to test large numbers of staff and patients are being set up at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst, one of the city’s inner suburbs.
This follows the detection of a small cluster at the hospital that can be traced back to a patient who treated for asthma and pneumonia at the facility late last year and then subsequently diagnosed with tuberculosis (more commonly referred to as ‘TB’) some weeks later.
Five cases all show the same TB strain
That individual is believed to have transmitted the infection to two other patients and a staff member at the hospital.
“Genomic sequencing recently found that five cases of tuberculosis in Sydney were the same strain and genetically identical, with four of them overlapping at St Vincent’s Hospital,” AAP reported.
According to a media statement released by the hospital on Friday26 June, the patient likely to have transmitted the disease was not known to have tuberculosis at the time they were potentially infectious.
‘Very targeted’ group may have been exposed
The hospital said it is now working with NSW Health and clinical experts to identify a ‘very targeted’ group of staff, patients and members of the public who may have been exposed. Testing is being arranged as a precaution.
“Usually with tuberculosis you need prolonged close contact [to become infected]. We are talking hours, or in fact days [of exposure to the TB sufferer], and the people most at risk when someone has active tuberculosis are people that are usually living with the person. So household contacts are people that would be most at risk usually,” said Dr Anthony Byrne, a respiratory physician and tuberculosis specialist from the hospital.
Casting a wide net during the testing
Byrne explained that the hospital and NSW health authorities were now “casting the net wide” by testing members of the public in addition to staff and patients who were at the hospital at the same time as the infected patient.
He added that Australia had a low TB incidence rate of seven people per 100 000 annually, which meant about 600 people in NSW were diagnosed per year.