The Vancouver Island Health Authority is working to contain an outbreak of tuberculosis in Campbell River after four residents contracted the infectious disease.
Four people are being treated with a combination of antibiotics, said Dr. Paul Hasselback, VIHA medical health officer, on Tuesday.
One person contracted tuberculosis while travelling within Canada and spread it to the others after returning to Campbell River.
Another 14 people who have been in close contact with the infected persons have tested positive for the disease but do not have active tuberculosis. They are being treated with an antibiotic or monitored with skin tests and chest X-rays.
“We don’t want anyone to get sick,” Hasselback said. “There is a fairly robust response to containing any cases of tuberculosis that occur.”
Tuberculosis, or TB, is caused by slow-growing bacteria that most often develops in the lungs. Symptoms can include prolonged cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and fever.
To contract the disease, a person would have to be in close and prolonged contact with someone who has tuberculosis. Coughing is the most common course of transmission.
Once infected, a person is more likely to develop the disease if he or she already has suppressed immunity or is unhealthy. Treatment often involves taking multiple antibiotics for six months to a year.
Tuberculosis bacteria can remain latent for years before the infection reactivates or “wakes up,” Hasselback said. It can remain dormant for a lifetime.
In the fall of 2011, two men from the downtown Victoria street community were treated for tuberculosis. In all, there were eight cases in Victoria that year.
Kelowna and Port Alberni have grappled with outbreaks for years, although the number has decreased.
Campbell River had its last reported case about two months ago.
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