As many as 40 babies and toddlers may have had contact with a health worker at the Gladstone Hospital who was infected with tuberculosis (TB).
Hospital executive director Dr Nicki Murdock said the exposure period was from late March to early May this year.
“We have done some tracking through the charts and we’ve decided there are between 30 and 40 children under two that we need to screen,” Dr Murdock said.
“The screening has to be done three months after contact. [We use] pin pricks through the skin and then we look to see how the skin reacts to that pin prick two or three days later.
“Children have immature immune systems and in fact the immune system isn’t fully formed until you’re about 15 or 16 and so children are more likely to get infections than adults.”
Dr Murdock said she did not know how the health worker contracted the disease.
“[They] must have had contact with someone who had TB, but no I don’t know how they contracted it,” she said.
“In Queensland over the past year there’ve been just over 60 people diagnosed with TB, but it’s a pretty low incidence of TB.
“If you have active TB, sometimes you will have a cough, sometimes you will cough up blood, but this particular person, although they’ve got TB, they have no symptoms at all.”
She said there was little risk the tuberculosis found in the worker would spread.
“TB really isn’t that infectious; it’s something that is relatively difficult to catch. You have to have someone with active TB and they have to be coughing or sneezing,” Dr Murdock said.
“This person was asymptomatic and didn’t know that they had TB so that also contributes to the fact that the risk is quite low.”