“Please be advised that Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Public Health is working on investigating and following up with those individuals who may have recently been exposed to a confirmed case of infectious tuberculosis in the Shelburne area,” stated the letter, written by Dr. Linda Earle, medical officer of health for southwest Nova Scotia.
There are typically only eight to 10 cases of TB in a Nova Scotia per year.
Tuberculosis is caused by a type of bacteria that mainly affects the lungs and airways. The disease is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, singing, playing wind instruments and, to a lesser extent, talking advised the letter.
The letter went on to say that the isolated case was quickly identified and treated and "there is currently no immediate or ongoing risk of exposure to tuberculosis for students, staff and other members of the Shelburne community."
Any individual who may have been exposed to the person with TB will be contacted by Public Health.
“We understand that because of the rare nature of tuberculosis, there is often significant concern when a case is identified,” Earle wrote.
She went on to say that public health follow-up is effective in identifying those exposed, assessing the risk of infection and screening for infection.
Most people who become infected do not develop disease symptoms and are not infectious to other people.
Tuberculosis is very rare in Canada. According to Health Canada, there are only 1,600 new cases of active TB reported every year.
About 90 per cent of these cases affect either foreign-born individuals or are cases among Canadian-born Indigenous Peoples.
The rate of active TB is lowest in the world, says Health Canada.
In a phone interview, Earle said the person affected has an active form of TB and all measures have been put in place including not putting people at risk.
“Once treated for TB, they don't pose any further risk,” said Earle.
She said despite a historical spread of TB, with current measures and the local environment the threat of the spread of infection and risk to the community is “very, very low,” she said.
“The bacteria itself is not highly infectious,” she said.
She said remote areas in Canada, where there are high levels of indigenous people living in close contact, the spread can be problematic.
Cara Bell has children at the high school and received a letter alerting her of the case.
"Seems like Public Health and the school are both doing their part to inform the parents on symptoms. I'm not overly worried, but that doesn't mean that status won't change if more cases pop up," said Bell
Signs of TB include
• A bad cough that lasts longer than two weeks; may contain blood or phlegm.
• Chest pain
• Weakness or tiredness
• Weigh loss
• Lack of appetite
• Chills, fever
• Night sweats
People who are more at risk may have
• Been around people with TB
• Had TB in past but didn’t complete treatment
• Used illegal inhaled or injected drugs, weakening their immune system
• Have been in confined spaces where TB is easily spread such as First Nation reserves, heavily populated cities, long-term care facilities; homeless shelters; refugee camps; or were born or have traveled to a country with high rates of TB
Did you know?
According to a Wikipedia article, in Europe, rates of tuberculosis began to rise in the early 1600s to a peak level in the 1800s, when it caused nearly 25 per cent of all deaths. By the 1950s, mortality in Europe had decreased about 90 per cent, thanks to improvements in sanitation, vaccination, and other public health measures. In 1946, the development of the antibiotic streptomycin made effective treatment and cure of TB a reality.