The first case of tuberculosis in Queensland’s central west in 25 years is being treated in isolation at the Longreach Hospital.
According to Central West Health executive director of medical services, Dr David Rimmer, the Barcaldine patient will be able to return home to complete treatment, after completing initial care at Longreach.
Due to patient confidentiality, no further details about the case were being released, but Dr Rimmer said contact tracing was underway to identify anyone who may have been in contact with the person.
“People will then be tested for TB depending on their level of contact with the case,’’ he said. “If our screening and testing process identifies anyone who is infected, we will provide them with appropriate treatment and ensure they receive medical follow-up.’’
Rural Doctors Association of Queensland president, Dr Konrad Kangru, said 18 cases of TB had already been notified in other parts of Queensland this year, consistent with the onset of the wet season, and over 1000 cases were seen in Australia each year.
He said the main at-risk areas in the state were remote communities on Cape York and in the state’s north west, adding that hospitals in those regions were well-equipped to deal with the infectious disease.
“There’s one case in the non-indigenous population per 100,000, and between four and fives cases per 100,000 in the indigenous population,” he said. “In people immigrating from at-risk countries, that number is 15 cases per 100,000 people.”
Dr Rimmer said the risk of contracting TB was low.
“TB is not spread by touching objects," he said.
“TB is spread by bacteria in tiny airborne droplets that can be inhaled when someone with active TB coughs, sneezes, laughs or speaks.
“Even then, to become exposed to TB usually requires close sustained contact with infected individuals.
“A short-term exposure is not generally sufficient to result in infection.”
Symptoms include a persistent cough for more than two or three weeks, sudden unexplained weight loss, night sweats, fever and coughing up blood.
Dr Rimmer said if anyone had any health concerns about themselves or their families, they should contact the Barcaldine Medical Centre.