News

TB strikes Victoria street people

Two Victoria street people have come down with active Tuberculosis and one has been isolated and is being cared for in hospital, the Vancouver Island Health Authority said Friday.

Because TB can be contagious among those who don't have proper housing or diets, the city's street population has been warned they are at risk if they have had close contact with the two victims whose names have not been released to the news media.

The first case was diagnosed in late September and the other this week, said Dr. Murray Fyfe, VIHA medical Health Officer.

However, he said there appears to be a connection between them.

The strain of TB has not been identified and won't be for a few weeks, he said.

The two street people with TB are the first cases of the illness in Victoria since 2009. Thought to be almost eliminated on Vancouver Island since the last major outbreak in 1999 and reappearing in 2006, there are now about 10-20 news cases of tuberculosis every year.

The most susceptible to TB are the elderly, people with health conditions and those who suffer weak immune systems, Fyfe said, adding that street people are among the most vulnerable because of their living conditions.

"We are working closely with other agencies in the downtown area to contact people who may have been exposed and to encourage them to come forward for testing," Fyfe said.

Fortunately, said Fyfe, "TB is not highly infectious like the flu or measles."

He said most cases of TB are among people who have recently immigrated to Canada.

Shannon Marshall, with VIHA communications, said VIHA's street nurses and TB nurse case managers are spreading the message and looking people who may have been in contact with the TB victims.

She said Our Place, Cool Aid, Aids Vancouver Island and various shelters who provide help the street people have all been notified and told to watch out for people showing TB symptoms.

A treatable illness that requires drug treatment for up to a year, TB symptoms include prolonged cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, fever or nights sweats.

VIHA said anybody showing TB symptoms should call 811, the health unit or their family physician.

 

 

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