Aged care worker tests positive to tuberculosis

ONE person is in isolation and more than 70 close contacts have been assessed for symptoms after a staff member at a Rockhampton aged care facility tested positive for infectious tuberculosis.

CQ Health Public Health director Dr Gulam Khandaker confirmed the staff member, who is believed to have contracted the disease overseas, was diagnosed on Friday and health officials were notified.

Dr Khandaker said the staff member was in isolation at home, receiving treatment and was in a good condition. He said the patient was in close contact with aged care residents and 29 had been identified as close contacts, along with 42 other staff members.

"The TB control unit is currently managing the case," he said.

"The TB control team and public health are working together and we are following up all the close contacts in the facility, including residents and staff members.

"Public health and the infectious diseases team has followed up and assessed all of those residents and thankfully, none of those residents are showing any symptoms at the moment.

"Each and every case of infectious tuberculosis, we take it seriously and do full blown contact tracing and case management.

"This is no different in an aged care facility and that involves clinical screening and also lab testing, to find out if anyone has been exposed or developed tuberculosis and we take the treatment from there.

"Over the weekend we have reviewed all of the residents in the aged care facility and I can confirm that none of the residents showed any symptoms of tuberculosis.

"All the 42 staff members that have been identified as close contacts, none of them are showing any symptoms.

"A screening process in terms of blood tests will be commenced within days and that will show whether anyone has contracted the disease and are currently harbouring the disease in a latent form. With those results, we will start treatment if we identify anyone with the disease."

The concerning case comes after a student at North Rockhampton State High School earlier this year tested positive for tuberculosis after returning from overseas.

Dr Khandaker confirmed a further three people were diagnosed with non-infectious tuberculosis as a result of the NRSHS case, out of 135 people identified as close contacts through contact tracing.

Dr Khandaker said the tuberculosis case at the aged care facility, was not linked to the NRSHS outbreak.

He said the staff members returned from overseas months ago, but the disease could lay dormant in a person's system for months or even years. 

With two infectious cases identified in the Rockhampton community in such a short amount of time, Dr Khandaker urged general practitioners across the Central Queensland region to consider tuberculosis as a diagnosis for patients with relevant symptoms going forward.

The symptoms of tuberculosis include: 
- Prolonged cough for two or three weeks or more
- Coughing up blood
- Any unexplained weightloss
- Night sweats, fever and chills