Seven students and a teacher at Kiangsu-Chekiang College in Shatin contracted tuberculosis in September, but news of the outbreak was only announced recently.
Dr. Leung Chi-chiu, from the Centre for Health Protection’s tuberculosis and chest service department, said the infected students and teacher are now in stable condition, and the outbreak at the school is under control, hk01.com reports.
But Civic Party legislator Kwok Ka-ki, a medical doctor, slammed the Health Department for the long delay in the announcement.
He said tuberculosis is highly infectious, although the Health Department chose to portray it otherwise.
Leung said tuberculosis patients would only start showing symptoms a few months after contraction, so the eight patients from the school could have contracted the disease in July.
He stressed that the disease does not spread like influenza, and it poses a threat only if there is a direct contact with the patients.
The school administration has arranged for 70 students and teachers to undergo screenings for the disease, and wants tests to be conducted on everyone on the campus. The school will remain open.
Leung said X-ray scans are unnecessary at the moment as they are more likely to trigger false alarm and harm elderly people than help reveal anything.
Around 30 cases of TB are reported each year, and around half of them are in schools, he said.
Each year around ten schools have students who contract the disease, with each school having as many as ten cases.
Asked why the news about the TB infections was announced more than a month after the outbreak, Leung explained that tuberculosis is a chronic infectious disease but poses a low threat to the public.
“Since some people may still have a negative view of TB patients, the department has to strike a balance between the public’s right to information and the privacy of the patients,” he said.
Leung stressed that the disease is not incurable and can be stopped with proper treatment.
The Education Bureau said the affected school has followed the health department’s guidelines regarding disinfection procedures and precautionary actions, including notifying all parents.
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