Dr. Denis Allard said child-care operators have been asked to suspend tuberculosis tests for new employees because of a shortage of the tests. (CBC)

The Department of Health is asking child-care operators in the province to suspend a tuberculosis test requirement for new employees because of a supply shortage.

When a person starts a job at a child-care facility they are supposed to have the tuberculosis test within a month of starting their job.

But a shortage of these tests has the New Brunswick government rationing its supply.

Dr. Denis Allard, the province's deputy chief medical officer of health, said the problem started with the manufacturer.

"The company that usually supplies the test has notified us a few months ago they may be in short supply until May this year," he said.

The test is a yearly requirement for many health-care professionals and recommended for travellers returning from countries with high tuberculosis rates.

Allard said tests will be set aside for hospital patients and for follow-ups on potential outbreaks of tuberculosis.

Child-care operators were recently told of the provincial government's request to postpone the tests for new workers.

Janet Towers, the vice-president of child and family development at the Saint John YMCA, said the province's request to suspend the tests for new workers is not a problem right now.

But she said it could be when hiring begins in a few months for its summer day-care programs.

"All of our staff are required to have a medical before they commence with us in our child-care program and in doing so that's part of them having the TB test that goes along with it," she said.

The Department of Health says the province has seen about five to 10 cases of tuberculosis per year in the past five years.

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that destroys lung tissue, causing patients to cough up the bacteria that spreads through the air to others in close contact for a prolonged period.

Symptoms of a tuberculosis infection can include loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, fever or night sweats.