A HAMPSHIRE school is at the centre of a tuberculosis alert after it was revealed their bus driver had contracted the life-threatening disease.
Students who have come into contact with the driver are now set to be tested to see if they have been infected.
GPs in Romsey have also been warned to watch out for signs of the disease when patients’ visit them with persistent coughs and other symptoms including coughing up blood, fever and night sweats.
A total of 71 pupils at Romsey School aged 11 to16 will now be tested for the disease.
A Public Health England spokesperson said: “The students were potentially exposed during the period that the driver was unaware of the TB infection or that this could be passed on to close contacts.
“There is no risk to any other students in the school or to those who used other buses.”
Officials have refused to reveal the driver’s name or the company he or she works for.
However, it has been confirmed that the driver hasn’t done the school run since the end of March.
“Students who use private hire coaches to travel to Romsey School daily and their parents are being informed and reassured that the risk of catching TB in this way is very low,” added the Public Health England spokesperson.
Screening won’t be carried out until later this month because Public Health England says testing for the infection too early would risk a false negative result.
Six weeks has to be allowed between the last exposure to being tested because the infection develops very slowly.
Romsey School headteacher Colm McKavanagh, below, said letters were issued to parents yesterday and a special questions and answers session with health officials was due to be held at the school this week in a bid to reassure pupils and their parents.
He said: “There is a very low risk and the screening is being done as a routine precaution.”
There are no plans at the moment to screen all the pupils at the school.
Dr Jim O’Brien, director of the Wessex Public Health England Centre, said: “TB is a preventable and treatable condition, but if left untreated it can be life-threatening.
“Efforts to control the spread of this infection must remain a public health priority.”
What is Tuberculosis?
TUBERCULOSIS is a deadly bacterial infection that often attacks the lungs but can affect other parts of the body.
It is spread through the air when infected people cough, sneeze, or otherwise release respiratory fluids into the air.
It is usually transmitted through close and prolonged contact with a person who has the infection or close contact with other family members.
Symptoms include chronic coughing, coughing up blood, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.
Since 1946 antibiotic treatments have been a successful cure for the disease although drug-resistant strains developed in the 1980s.
Vaccinations to prevent TB are no longer routinely given to school pupils and during the last few years there has been an upsurge in the disease across the UK.
In the Test Valley area the number of cases has fallen from five in 2011 to one in 2012. The number of confirmed TB cases in other parts of Hampshire has also gone down.
In Southampton 39 cases were confirmed in 2012 compared with 51 in 2011. Winchester has also seen a decline in cases with one in 2012 compared with four in 2011. In the New Forest district there were six cases in 2011 and two in 2012.
Case numbers remain unchanged in the Eastleigh area with four recorded in 2011 and the same number in 2012.