Seventy people will be tested for tuberculosis (TB) after a case was detected at a Saskatoon elementary school.
An individual at James L. Alexander school reportedly tested positive on Wednesday last week. Sixty-four students and six teachers who were in contact with the infected person will be tested between May 31 and June 2.
Dr. Johnmark Opondo, deputy medical health officer for the Saskatoon Health Region, stressed that although treatment can take months, TB is easily dealt with using a course of antibiotics. He said a cocktail of 5 different antibiotics is usually administered, which takes care of strains that may be resistant to one type of drug. He said the disease is very slow-moving, and in most cases, people who test positive only have a latent, non-infectious form of the bacteria which causes the condition.
“Of all the people exposed to TB in the world, only 10 per cent of them actually progress to having active disease,” he said.
Opondo said TB remains rare in Saskatchewan, with well under 100 cases reported in a normal year. He said most come from isolated northern communities or people infected outside the country. While there is a vaccine for TB, Opondo said it isn’t commonly used in Canada because infection rates are so low.
Opondo explained that the test for TB involves injecting material under the skin and then waiting to see if a person has a reaction. He said people carrying the bacteria generally show swelling similar to a bee sting around the injection site — with swelling of 10 millimetres in diameter or more considered the threshold for a positive test. He said people being tested should have their results within about 48 hours.
Contact information for Saskatchewan’s provincial TB prevention strategy is available here.
*Editors note: A previous draft of this story indicated a student was infected with TB. That has been changed to reflect the fact that the health region and Saskatoon Public Schools did not release whether or not it was a student or a staff member who was infected. CKOM News regrets the error.