Nova Scotia

Tuberculosis case identified in Antigonish, public health says

Public health officials say one person connected to a school in Antigonish, N.S., has a confirmed case of tuberculosis, but the threat to the public is low.

'The risk to the general population is low,' says Nova Scotia Health Authority official

An X-ray of a patient with active pulmonary tuberculosis in the right upper lung is shown. A case of TB has been confirmed in Antigonish, N.S. (Shutterstock)

Public health officials have identified a case of tuberculosis in Antigonish, N.S.

The patient is connected to a school in the community, but for privacy reasons, officials are not saying which one.

Dr. Lynda Earle, acting medical health officer with the Nova Scotia Health Authority's eastern zone, said the patient is being treated and others who may have been in contact are being monitored.

"The risk to the general population is low from this identified case," she said. "We have followed up with all those who may have previously been exposed and we've ensured that no new people are being exposed."

Tuberculosis is contagious, but not as much as the measles, for example, said Earle.

"It's always understandable that people might be concerned about that when they hear about a case, but the risk to communities and to individuals travelling through the area is low," she said.

Relatively uncommon

People have to have prolonged contact with a patient before they can contract tuberculosis, Earle said.

The disease is relatively uncommon in Nova Scotia, she said, but a few cases are identified every year.

Earle said members of the public need not be concerned.

"Tuberculosis is preventable, it's treatable and it is curable," she said.

"We now have well-defined antibiotic regimens that we can treat individuals with once they are diagnosed."

Notifiable disease

Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is one of a number of diseases that are notifiable, meaning that doctors have to report them to public health when a case is diagnosed.

According to the Department of Health and Wellness, someone can be infected with tuberculosis, but not have the disease. If untreated, it can be deadly.

Earle said tracing the source of the infection is part of the process, but with tuberculosis, it is possible to carry the bacteria for years without being contagious and without showing symptoms.

It is not yet known how the Antigonish patient contracted the disease, she said, and sometimes the answer is never found.

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Tom Ayers

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Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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