Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands yesterday dismissed international claims that 80 individuals living in storm shelters have tested positive for tuberculosis.
“When we have an actual case of active tuberculosis, where somebody has symptoms and it’s contagious, it requires that we screen all of their contacts – go into their home, their school, their church, wherever they hang out – and make sure that their contacts do not have active, contagious tuberculosis,” Sands said.
“So, we have had one confirmed case of tuberculosis. One. Only one. The public health program of contact tracing has identified 80 persons, who at some point in their life would have been exposed to TB.
“None of those persons are symptomatic. None of them are presumed to be contagious, but every single time we identify a case, this is what we have to go through.
“This is the way that we will get to the point where we eliminate TB from The Bahamas.”
Last month, a student living in the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium tested positive for an active case of tuberculosis and was admitted to hospital for treatment.
According to the most recent Hurricane Dorian update from the Ministry of Health, 326 shelter residents were screened and 80 were positive.
Thirty-six people were screened at A.F. Adderley Junior High School, but none tested positive, according to the report.
Sands added that it’s not helpful to describe those 80 cases as an outbreak because it is far from one.
“The Bahamas enjoys a level of improvement of tuberculosis prevalence which has been, for the most part, decreasing since the 1960’s,” Sands said.
“Now while we have had the occasional lift, the overall trend is very positive, and we are on path to see the elimination of tuberculosis in the foreseeable future.
“We have less that 20 cases per 100,000, and if you look at the rest of the region, there are many countries that are much higher than that.”
Data from the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) released on December 9, 2019, estimated that 54 people developed TB during 2019, and six of them were children.
It further indicated that three individuals developed drug resistant TB, a form of the disease more difficult to diagnose, treat and cure.
It was also estimated that Haiti saw 20,000 individuals test positive for the disease, 2,100 of which were children.
The Dominican Republic has seen 4,800 people develop the disease with 220 of them being children.