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Tuberculosis cases detected in the Murraylands
SA Health is treating five patients with active cases of the rare disease, including a five-year-old child.
Five active cases of tuberculosis, a rare infectious disease of the lungs, have been detected in the Murraylands.
A five-year-old child is one of the patients now receiving treatment, most of whom are in the same family.
Four have been diagnosed since April, according to SA Health; the fifth was only recently confirmed to have had the disease since 2018.
Another nine people have been detected with the latent form of the disease – that is, the bacteria which causes it is present in their systems, but they do not have any symptoms and are not infectious.
Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said she did not believe there was any risk to the wider community.
“Our response for this outbreak will focus on high-risk contacts who have had frequent, prolonged and close contact with the initial case, including children,” she said.
“Treatment is being provided to all active cases and people with latent infections to help contain the cluster.”
Experts within SA Health’s TB service, Aboriginal public health team, the Women’s and Children’s Health Network and the Department for Health and Wellbeing are coordinating testing, treatment and contact tracing.
The Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network, local doctors and the Moorundi health service are also involved in the effort.
What is tuberculosis?
Australia has one of the lowest rates in the world of tuberculosis, sometimes known as consumption, phthisis or simply TB.
About 1500 cases are reported nationally each year, according to the Better Health Channel.
Most are among people who have recently come from countries where the disease is more common.
An outbreak was reported in South Australia’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands earlier this year, but SA Health said the local cluster was not connected to it.
TB is caused by a bacteria which usually infects the lungs, but can also enter the kidneys, spine, brain or other parts of the body.
The infection may last for a lifetime without a patient ever experiencing symptoms, and someone with a latent infection cannot infect others.
However, up to 10 per cent of infected people may develop tuberculosis disease, according to the World Health Organisation.
The disease can cause a bad, bloody or phlegmy cough; chest pain; weakness; loss of weight or appetite; and chills, fevers and night sweats.
It can be fatal if left untreated, but treatment is readily available in Australia.
More information: www.sahealth.sa.gov.au.
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