Waikato DHB is aware that there are people in Kawhia that are worried they or their whanau may have been exposed to TB (tuberculosis).
We want to reassure the Kawhia community that we have no information that indicates any current TB infection risk (in Kawhia or elsewhere). People in Kawhia do not need to do anything different than they normally do, or than people in other parts of NZ do.
There were three cases of TB in that community last year (two confirmed and one probable) and there have been three others in other parts of New Zealand more recently that are linked. They have all been treated and are not infectious. We held a public meeting with the Kawhia community last September to give information and reassurance and have worked closely with the local GP.
We have worked with, or are currently working with, all the people identified as close contacts of recent infectious cases. We know of no one in the community that is currently infectious.
We are following the existing guidance based on international best practice.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Richard Hoskins says: “TB is not uncommon in NZ, each year there are 200-300 cases notified, about half of these are infectious. It is not easy to get or pass on. There are several types of TB, and only one type can be passed on to others (“infectious”).
People with the infectious TB will have a different risk of passing it on to others based on things like age, the symptoms they have, and results of lab tests or X-rays. Once somebody with infectious TB has been on treatment for some time they stop being infectious.
If you have concerns about the health of yourself or your whanau please talk to your doctor or Public Health Nurse.
What the Medical Officer of Health does when notified of someone with TB
Notification comes from both the doctor when TB is suspected and from the laboratory that confirms it.
- Public Health gathers information from that case and decides whether there are other people that need to be assessed.
- If there is a risk of TB being passed on Public Health start “contact tracing”. This is where we get a list of all the people with close enough contact to be at risk of getting TB in the future. We look for people who have spent a lot of time with someone with the sort of TB where there is a risk of it being passed on.
- Public Health Nurses then interview, and if necessary, test those people. If those tests show their bodies have had a reaction to the TB germ, or they might already have a form of TB, we refer them to a specialist for assessment and together they then decide on treatment. Anybody we think might be infectious we immediately isolate and get assessed.
- Sometimes we find the person who probably passed it on to the case and we refer them for treatment. Sometimes we find other people who also have TB, but that does not prove who they got it from. When we find these sorts of people we do more contact tracing.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that most commonly affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body like lymph nodes, bones, joints and kidneys.
Tuberculosis is spread through coughing, sneezing or spitting. The bacteria are carried into the air and people nearby can breathe them in through their mouths and noses.
You need to live or work closely with a person with infectious TB to be at risk of catching TB.
People with tuberculosis don’t always show symptoms. Symptoms of TB can be similar to other illnesses. The most common symptoms are:
- a cough lasting 3 weeks or more, often with thick phlegm
- night sweats
- weight loss
- swollen glands (usually in your neck).
- coughing up blood is a widely known symptom of TB, but if this occurs, it will happen a long time after someone is infected.
If you think you may have TB, it’s important to see your doctor. They can arrange tests or referral to see if you’re infected.
The tuberculosis germ can stay inactive in someone’s body for many years and may never develop into TB. This is called latent tuberculosis infection. Even though you feel well and healthy, the doctor may still advise treatment to make sure you do not develop TB disease later.
TB is treated with a combination of antibiotics, which need to be taken for several months and occasionally up to 2 years.