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TB scare

Samisoni Nabilivalu And Timoci Vula
Friday, June 01, 2012

THE Fiji National University (FNU) has temporarily closed one of its centres after some students and staff were diagnosed with tuberculosis.

The university, in a statement to this newspaper, said it was taking appropriate short and long-term preventive measures to ensure the safety of students and staff at its Cumming St information technology centre in central Suva.

The index case is a 22-year old man, a computer science student, the FNU stated.

In responding to the matter with due seriousness, the university has established a taskforce in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to look into this matter, it stated.

National Tuberculosis control officer Jeremia Caguingin said the student contracted TB from someone at his home and had come to the hospital, but later refused treatment and admission.

The tubercle bacillus thrives in oxygen. The patient would have been coughing and spitting. In the closed environment of a lab, combined with bad ventilation, it would have spread, Dr Caguingin said.

He said early diagnosis and treatment could have prevented the situation but added patients had the right to refuse treatment.

Ministry of Health spokesman Peni Namotu says any person who knows he or she has the disease and puts others at risk when refusing treatment, can be charged under the Public Health Act.

Its (TB) an airborne disease and if they are with family or in a congested area with others, there is a risk of those people contracting the disease, Mr Namotu told The Fiji Times.

In this case, he said the onus was on those diagnosed with TB to visit the nearest medical centre for treatment.

Dr Caguingin said the medicine was free for the whole course of treatment unlike other countries, and advised those who knew they needed to be admitted to visit the hospital.

He said 249 people, both students and staff from the university, were screened.

If over 10 per cent of those in close prolonged contact with him test positive for TB, the original case is highly infectious.

This means those in casual contact will also have to be screened. The lab will have to be sterilised for at least 24 hours before it can be used again, Dr Caguingin said. He said there have been 43 cases of TB in the division so far in 2012.


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