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TB outbreak in Sydney primary school -

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PETER CAVE: The infectious lung disease tuberculosis has been found circulating in a Western Sydney
primary school.

The NSW Health Department says it has been caught before any real harm was done but it's has
revealed 17 students and six staff members have tested positive for TB exposure.

The source of the local infection was a female staff member who'd recently travelled overseas.

Communicable diseases expert, Dr Vicky Sheppeard spoke to Karen Barlow.

VICKY SHEPPEARD: To date, we've screened over 100 of the students at the school and we found that
17 of those have a positive test for exposure to tuberculosis.

KAREN BARLOW: What are the ages of these students?

VICKY SHEPPEARD: These are primary school students from a variety of years within the school.

KAREN BARLOW: How does the Health Department class this sort of transmission? This is a rare
occurrence?

VICKY SHEPPEARD: Well, it is certainly rare to have a transmission in a school. In New South Wales
we get about 450 cases of tuberculosis, active tuberculosis each year and we routinely follow-up
potential contacts.

This case is different in that there was a larger number of contacts that have required follow-up.

KAREN BARLOW: A school normally is a "buggy" sort of area for anything normally like colds or
measles or chicken pox, so I suppose TB is really adding to the mix?

VICKY SHEPPEARD: Yes, well fortunately it is still a rare disease in Australia. We feel that the
programs that are in place to... TB is imported from countries with high prevalence.

We've got very effective programs in place to prevent that and then to detect it if it does occur
in Australia and worldwide we have one of the lowest rates of TB.

KAREN BARLOW: It is normally recognised these days as being from third world counties, is this
where this particular case came from, from overseas?

VICKY SHEPPEARD: That's correct yes.

KAREN BARLOW: And what is the status of these particular people that have contact? Are they OK?

VICKY SHEPPEARD: Yes. Now they are still going through the process of assessment. They get
specialised, once they test positive then they go to the chest clinic.

They get a specialist assessment including a chest X-ray and review by respiratory physician and
some of those people will need to have a course of antibiotic treatment to prevent the TB from
progressing to active disease.

KAREN BARLOW: Is there any Health Department concerns about further infections? Is there any reason
to panic?

VICKY SHEPPEARD: Yeah, well an important message is that the children are not infectious and the
children are not sick. They need assessment and treatment to make sure that the disease is properly
managed and does not progress but there is no concerns at all about the infectivity of the children
and they don't present. There is no on-going risk at the school or in that community.

PETER CAVE: Dr Vicky Sheppeard speaking to Karen Barlow.