All islanders to be screened after TB confirmed on Inis Oirr
By Una Sinnott
The HSE West Department of Public Health is offering screening to everyone living on Inis Oírr following confirmation of tuberculosis infection on the island.
The HSE has advised that the risk of transmission is low but is offering screening for the entire population of the island as a precautionary measure, in line with best medical practice and national guidelines. The move will help to identify people who may need treatment to prevent the spread of infection.
“While TB has been reducing over the years it is still a disease that needs to be monitored and people are screened to ensure they are not infected or capable of infecting others,” said Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan, HSE West public health director. “It may seem unusual to screen a full population, but with approximately 250 people on the island it is comparable to screening a school or a factory. The community on the island is a close knit one and we want to ensure that everyone is offered screening.”
Every household on the island received a letter this week inviting them to attend a screening clinic next week. Dr O’Donovan will meet the residents at an open meeting in the Inis Oírr community hall at 8pm next Monday.
TB is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. It can be spread by breathing in the bacteria in tiny droplets sneezed or coughed by someone who has TB in their lungs. In most people the body’s immune system kills the bacteria before they start to cause symptoms and the person does not become ill.
Active TB infection can occur in different parts of the body. In most people with active TB their lungs are affected, causing symptoms such as persistent cough, weight loss, fever, night sweats, and coughing up blood.
If TB is left untreated it can be a very serious illness. When a person is diagnosed, people who have been in close contact are offered screening tests to check if they are also infected. This process, known as contact tracing, can involve screening family or other people who live with the infected person, and others who have had close contact including work or school colleagues. People invited for screening are offered a skin test for TB, called a Mantoux test. Further tests, including x-rays, may also be required.
TB was very common in Ireland in middle of the last century, with up 7,000 cases reported each year in the early 1950s. In 2010 there were 427 cases notified, and 21 of these people lived in the HSE West area of counties Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon.