Up to six people in Kawhia have contracted TB. The Waikato DHB has confirmed five cases so far. Photo/File

Up to six people have contracted tuberculosis in the small seaside town of Kawhia.

The issue has riled locals after Waikato District Health Board officials assured residents the disease had been contained in a meeting in November, Fairfax reported today.

However, the Waikato DHB has issued a statement assuring residents there is no further risk.

Waikato DHB medical officer of health Dr Richard Hoskins visited the town in November about TB, a potentially deadly disease which usually attacks the lungs, advising locals how to protect themselves.

At the time of the meeting, there were two known cases of tuberculosis and one possible.

All have now been treated and are not considered infectious.

However, Kawhia grandfather Richard Torpey believes the DHB didn’t do enough to protect the rest of the community, allowing the disease to spread during the busy festive season.

Of the new cases that emerged in December, three were infected by one of the earlier carriers. Now others are being contacted to be tested, including four members of Torpey’s family, two of whom are children.

The first public acknowledgement about TB was in September 2017.

Hoskins had written to his grandchild’s daycare.

The letter said there were rumours that children had been exposed to TB at the Kawhia Daycare Centre. Hoskins denied the rumours in his letter.

Torpey said the Waikato DHB told locals they were safe, but said the false sense of security meant many had let their guard down.

“They said that there was nothing for us to worry about, but people have continued to get sick from this disease,” Torpey told Fairfax.

“We know 10 other people who are going for testing next week and four of them are my family: my son, his partner and my two grandsons. So I’m a little annoyed that this man [Hoskins] can stand there and say there is nothing to worry about.”

Some Kawhia locals were expressing on social media concern that the outbreak could affect the upcoming Kawhia Kai Festival, which is held over Waitangi Weekend.

However, Felicity Dumble, Waikato DHB medical officer of health, says people had nothing to worry about and they were not advising people to stay away from the area.

She said people were put in isolation until they were no longer contagious. However, the disease would remain in their system for up to six months during which time they would continue receiving treatment.

Hoskins wanted to reassure the Kawhia community that they currently “had no information that indicates any current TB infection risk (in Kawhia or elsewhere)”.

“People in Kawhia do not need to do anything different than they normally do, or than people in other parts of NZ do.

“There were three cases of TB in that community last year (two confirmed and one probable) and there have been three others in other parts of New Zealand more recently that are linked. They have all been treated and are not infectious. We held a public meeting with the Kawhia community last September to give information and reassurance and have worked closely with the local GP.

“We know of no one in the community that is currently infectious.”

Hoskins said TB was not uncommon in New Zealand.

“Each year there are 200-300 cases notified, about half of these are infectious. It is not easy to get or pass on. There are several types of TB, and only one type can be passed on to others [‘infectious’].”

TB Symptoms
[source: Waikato DHB]

People with tuberculosis don’t always show symptoms. Symptoms of TB can be similar to other illnesses. The most common symptoms are:

• a cough lasting three weeks or more, often with thick phlegm
• tiredness
• night sweats
• weight loss
• swollen glands (usually in your neck).
• coughing up blood is a widely known symptom of TB, but if this occurs, it will happen a long time after someone is infected.

Source: NZ Herald

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