Tuberculosis scare at Antigua pre-school

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Tuberculosis scare at Antigua pre-school
The forearms of two children tested at the St. John’s Health Centre for tuberculosis. (Photo by Tameika Malone)
The forearms of two children tested at the St. John’s Health Centre for tuberculosis. (Photo by Tameika Malone)

(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) – Anxiety turned to irritation for parents visiting the St. John’s Health Centre after learning that their preschoolers might have been exposed to the highly infectious bacterial disease, tuberculosis, and they had to be tested yesterday.

On Friday, when 40-plus parents of PreK-3 and PreK-1 classes got the notification to take their children into the clinic Monday (yesterday), they were not given any specific reason why, until they got there.

And, that’s when they also learned that a four-year-old PreK-3 boy at the institution had been diagnosed and was hospitalised for the past two weeks. The news came as a shock to all.

Tubercolosis is spread through the air when people who have active T.B. in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze. It is treatable.

The symptoms of active T.B. are a chronic cough often bloody, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. T.B. is also known as “Consumption” – a term adopted due to the weight loss that patients suffered.

“This is very unfair. The parents of that child should not have exposed our children to this. The school [advocates that] when your children are sick that they should stay home. The principal and teachers would go as far as call you, even if you just dropped off the child, to return for any sick children,” one parent said.

When parents went to the clinic for 9 a.m. yesterday they were told that their children would receive a vaccine and a solution injected under the skin to check for a reaction for tuberculosis.

OBSERVER media was there and observed many of the children, most of whom were not happy with being restrained and injected. While the test did not last more than 30 seconds, the children who were as young as two-years-old complained of discomfort at the injection site on their forearms.

Parents were given further instructions by the medical team to return to the clinic with the children’s health card tomorrow at 9 a.m. so that the reaction, if any, of the injection site, could be addressed.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Knight told OBSERVER media that Antigua and Barbuda eliminated TB as an epidemic 40 years ago and the hospital ward that specifically dealt with these patients was subsequently closed.

He stated that there was one confirmed last year, but, he suggested there was no need for alarm.

According to him, the mandatory procedures are being followed now that health officials know at least one child was carrying T.B.

Dr. Knight said as a precautionary measure the 51 patients were administered Madoux to test for the bacteria.

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