TB did not scare us, says head

13th February 2004 at 00:00
School pulls through tuberculosis outbreak and stays open, reports Stephen Lucas

A headteacher described this week how her school came through a major tuberculosis scare.

Three pupils at Portsdown primary, in Portsmouth, have been diagnosed and are being treated for TB, after a teacher became ill with the disease.

All 374 pupils and 70 staff have now been given a Heaf test - a six pinprick jab to check for TB bacteria - since the Year 6 teacher came down with the potentially fatal disease on January 19.

Kym Wilcocks, headteacher, said: "The children weren't panicking. We dealt with it in stages. We sent out letters to the parents and we held three meetings last week for them to ask questions.

"It's been a very, very anxious few weeks. I always knew this school was amazing, and we have pulled through together.

"We haven't shut down. We lost one of our two halls for several mornings while the tests were going on. But we haven't lost any curriculum time. The children are not infectious and are all at school."

So far 59 children and 11 adults have tested positive, meaning they have been exposed to TB.

Chest X-rays found that three children with positive tests had TB. They have been given a six-month course of antibiotics. The rest are on a precautionary three-month course.

There have been several TB outbreaks at UK schools in recent years. In December last year a Year 10 pupil from Highlands school in Enfield, London was diagnosed, and in April 2001, eight 14 to 15-year-olds at Duffryn high school, in Newport, Wales, were found to have the disease. One of the worst outbreaks was at Leicester's Crown Hills community college in April 2001, when 62 cases were recorded. In Britain in the 1940s there were 50,000 cases a year, but by the late 1980s this had fallen to 5,000. Today it is just below 7,000.

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