October 22 2014 Latest news:
Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
A systematic TB screening programme for new migrants could be put in place in Peterborough where most of those affected by the recent Chatteris outbreak lived.
The information was revealed by county councillor Tony Orgee, county council cabinet member for health and wellbeing.
“The national strategy would not advise putting a systematic TB screening programme for new migrants in place in Cambridgeshire but it may well do in Peterborough which is where most of these cases originated,” he said.
However factory workers in Chatteris are being invited to be screened for TB following the recent outbreak in which workers from different plants were affected by the disease.
Public Health England (PHE) will be in “at least one of the factories and that work will start very shortly” said Cllr Orgee.
He revealed the joint enterprise by PHE and the county council in response to a question from county councillor Paul Bullen.
Cllr Orgee was asked about the time lag – up to two years- before local people were told and said this was because epidemiologists had only identified “this cluster of cases very recently”.
He added: “The point is that Public Health England has not identified any evidence of risk to the general public in Chatteris and therefore the incident has not been publicised. “
He insisted TB could not be transmitted through produce packed at any of the factors and so PHE felt there was no need to publicise the information.
Cases had been treated as and when they arose, he said, and it was only by studying the data afterwards that specialists could identify the cluster of cases in the Chatteris area.
“All close contacts of those people who did contract the disease in the past have been screened and looked at,” he said.
Responding to TB possibly being brought into this country by European migrant workers, Cllr Orgee said a GP could refer any such patient known to have come from a country at risk for screening.
There was also the possibility of workers being screened as part of an occupational health check before starting work.
TB incidence in most European countries, whilst higher than in the UK, still did not reach the target level set by Public Health England, he said.
County council leader Martin Curtis claimed that a press release issued by Cllr Bullen which highlighted the Chatteris outbreak “contained inaccurate medical information”.
He felt the statement of there being a risk of contamination through contact with vegetables “could have caused communities to feel unsafe.”
Cllr Orgee added that TB may have contributed to a death among the migrant work force in Chatteris “but it did not cause the death so I think that is an important point to make.”