Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
MORE than 340 people living in two shelters for Hurricane Dorian victims have been screened for tuberculosis - 80 of them with positive skin tests, according to Health Minister Dr Duane Sands yesterday.
Those with the positive skin tests are in the process of further screening through chest x-rays.
Earlier this month, a student living in the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium tested positive for an active case of tuberculosis and was admitted to hospital for treatment.
Officials have also screened people at the Bahamas Academy Gymnasium shelter on Wulff Road and plan to continue to effort.
“It does not mean they were exposed to tuberculosis from this particular person,” Dr Sands said of the situation.
“The next step in screening would be a chest x-ray. If the chest x-ray is normal then they would be considered as an exposure they would receive what we call prophylaxis if they’re not infectious and they go about their business. They do not count as an active case of tuberculosis.
“If the chest x-ray is abnormal then we determine if they are abnormal because of cancer, abnormal because of pneumonia, abnormal because of tuberculosis and they would require further testing most likely in hospital.”
However the minister noted that the Bahamas had one of the lowest incidents of the disease.
“We have an aggressive public health protocol towards the eradication and management of tuberculosis exposure. So every time we have a case we go through this.
“We go to the churches. We go to the schools that the index case would have been. We go into their homes. We go into their communities and we test everybody so that we could avoid the spread of tuberculosis.”
“So these 80 persons who have been screened now require secondary screening and if the test x-ray comes out suspicious or positive or something’s wrong with it then we go to the next level,” he added.
A little over two weeks ago the Ministry of Health said in a statement that it was not known where the student’s infection originated.
“As of 11 December 2019, 273 persons in the shelter have been screened,” the ministry said at the time. “Of that number 63 had positive skin tests, inducing an exposure to TB at some time in their past. As a part of the TB protocol those persons will also receive a chest x-ray to determine whether they have active TB or were merely exposed to someone with TB. At the school that the student attends, 36 persons were also screened. As the results from the skin test have to be read 48 hours and 72 hours after placement, those results are pending.”
The ministry said the TB rate in the Bahamas is less than 20 per 100,000, making the country a low incidence one.
Proper hand washing, coughing and sneezing hygiene are nonetheless important to help prevent spread of the infection, the ministry said.
People with latent TB infection have no symptoms, do not feel sick, cannot spread the infection to others, usually have a positive TB skin test reaction and can develop active TB if they do not receive treatment for the latent disease, the ministry said.
Symptoms of active TB in the lungs include a bad cough lasting longer than two weeks, pain in the chest and coughing up blood or sputum, with other symptoms including weakness or fatigue, weight loss, chills and sweating at night. Active TB is treatable.