Tuberculosis scare in Calgary?
Alberta Health Services has announced that families of children at a Calgary daycare have been notified that their children may have been exposed to an infectious case of tuberculosis.
The names of the daycare and the tuberculosis patient in question have not been released to protect patient confidentiality, but health officials are completing a follow-up screening and are advising that the general public is currently not at risk.
“This case is not a risk to the general public and is also not an ongoing risk to the daycare staff or attendees,” Alberta Health Services said in a statement. “Only those notified by AHS are considered exposed to this case. AHS is informing the public as a matter of transparency.”
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease which commonly affects the lungs and can be spread from person to person through airborne particles produced by coughing or sneezing. While treatable in most cases with an antibiotic regimen, TB nevertheless remains one of the world’s top infectious disease killers. The disease has its greatest impact on low and middle-income countries, causing 1.5 million deaths worldwide in the year 2014, according to the World Health Organization.
Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the international community to pledge more money to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, saying that the three combined diseases kill an estimated 8,000 people every day, with girls and women in developing countries most strongly affected. “Poverty is sexist,” Trudeau said from an international donor conference in Montreal. “The women and young girls who live in poverty are particularly exposed to disease. For them, it is more difficult to surmount obstacles that prevent them from becoming educated and they are victims every day of social and political discrimination.”
In Canada, the number of people contracting tuberculosis in the territory of Nunavut is 40 times the national average at a rate of 143 cases per 100,000 people. The majority of cases involve latent tuberculosis, which itself is not contagious nor does it present with symptoms, however 10 per cent of patients with latent TB eventually develop active TB within one or more years. Nunavut Health Minister Monica Ell-Kanayuk says that TB is a “major concern” in Nunavut, due to prevailing risk factors such as poverty, overcrowding, poor housing and poor nutrition.
TB rates among First Nations Canadians have decreased significantly over the past few decades, according to Health Canada, which started a Strategy Against Tuberculosis for First Nations On-Reserve in 2012. The strategy calls for renewed focus on primary prevention especially in remote communities and developing stronger ties between all levels of government to deliver a coordinated approach.
While a vaccine against TB has been in existence for almost a century, its use in preventing the contraction of TB is limited to about 20 per cent of cases. As a result, a number of industrialized countries have discontinued widespread vaccination against TB, including Canada which did so in the 1970s but currently maintains vaccination programs for high risk groups and First Nations and Inuit populations.