Four Campbell River cases of tuberculosis no reason for panic says health officer

Sign posted at the Salvation Army soup kitchen advises visitors to get checked for the disease.

Four city residents are receiving treatment for tuberculosis (TB), according the North Island’s medical health officer.

“Tuberculosis is very difficult to diagnose,” said Dr. Charmaine Enns. “All four (people) are in treatment and are not infectious.”

One of the men infected contacted the Campbell River Mirror on Tuesday and advised there’s sign posted at the Salvation Army soup kitchen, advising visitors to get checked for the disease.

“I already have a disability and now I have f—ing tuberculosis,” said the man who asked to remain anonymous.

Dr. Enns acknowledged there’s a public stigma regarding people who with active cases of TB.

She saw it for herself during a 2006 outbreak in Port Alberni.

“People were really treated badly,” she says.

It’s also important, she adds, to not cause “a lot of unnecessary angst.” Approximately one-third of the entire human population carries the TB bacteria – it’s just not active and will likely remain dormant for a lifetime.

However, someone with an active case can spread the virus to others with whom they are very close to.

People who with poor immune systems, are homeless, have substance abuse issues or who share needles are especially at risk, according to information posted on the Canadian Lung Association website.

The key, said Dr. Enns, is to get tested and to get treatment which can cure TB and prevent it from ever becoming infectious.

The difficulty, especially from a health care providers’ standpoint, is finding out who’s spreading TB.

For those who are infected and receiving treatment, public health nurses investigate their innermost circle of family or friends, the most likely source of the TB infection.

Then they start looking at the “outer circles” where someone who’s contracted the virus interacts with others.

The downtown soup kitchen on Cedar Street is one of those outer circle places, said Enns, and public health nurses have visited and urged the visitors to get tested.

If you think you might need a test, visit your doctor or a walk-in clinic. Enns said the last reported TB case in Campbell River came in about two months ago.


What is TB?


According to the Canadian Lung Association, here are the facts on TB:

  • TB is a serious disease caused by a germ, a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
  • TB usually infects the lungs. TB can also infect other parts of the body, including the kidneys, spine and brain.
  • The main TB symptoms are a bad cough, fever, losing weight, and feeling weak.
  • TB is contagious. People who are sick with active TB disease spread TB germs through the air. It’s important for people with TB to get treatment right away. TB treatments can cure TB and prevent it from spreading to others.
  • Most people catch TB from someone at their home or work who has active TB disease. People with active TB disease spread TB germs in the air by coughing, laughing, sneezing, singing, playing a wind instrument or talking.
  • TB germs do not spread by shaking hands, sharing food, drinks, or dishes, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes or kissing.