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NZ: TB search area to be increased

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  • NZ: TB search area to be increased

    TB search area to be increased
    25 September 2006

    The search has widened for people who may have contracted tuberculosis following an outbreak at Palmerston North Boys' High School.

    In recent weeks 1800 Boys' High students, staff and relatives were tested for exposure to tuberculosis after a 13-year-old boy was found to have an infectious form of the disease last month.

    Those results revealed 206 people had been exposed to the bacteria and 18 are now suspected of having the active form of the disease.

    Now another 90 people from the 13-year-old's wider social circles outside the school would be tested "as soon as possible", MidCentral Medical Officer of Health Patrick O'Connor said.

    "Because we have got a relatively high rate of positives we need to extend the net a bit further," he said at the weekend.

    "We have got to find them and test them as quickly as we can." He was also not ruling out more people being tested in the future, but said that would depend on the outcome of the next batch of tests.

    Mr O'Connor said as far as health authorities knew, the 13-year-old, who is still in Palmerston North, remained the only person who had developed an infectious form of tuberculosis.

    "You can have signs of an early infection well before you are an infectious risk to anyone else it can be from weeks to years. It's a highly variable condition." Health authorities believed they had a "fairly comprehensive list" of the 13-year-old's contacts.

    "If more information comes to light we will follow it up," Mr O'Connor said.

    He did not know the boy's current condition, but said he could be treated.

    The 18 people now suspected of having an active form of the disease, but not an infectious form, were currently being treated and testing of their close contacts was continuing. "This particular organism is susceptible to the antibiotics," Mr O'Connor said.