Questions are being raised over how at least ten people reportedly became infected with a strain of drug-resistant tuberculosis.
A 23-year-old university student presented to his local GP in Chippendale with a persistent cough, and returned a further two times in three months before he was sent for an X-ray, News Corp reports.
He was initially told his symptoms – including shortness of breath – were the result of asthma. It was after a third visit and a subsequent X-ray, that a 6cm hole was found on his lung.
He was rushed to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on October 21 where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
By that time, the student had become highly contagious and infected up to ten people.
The federal health department said it would follow up the matter with NSW Health.
It’s believed the unidentified student picked up the disease while backpacking through Cambodia, Bali, Thailand, Vietnam and Morocco.
Director of Communicable Diseases at NSW Health Vicky Sheppeard told 9news.com.au there was no current investigation into the doctor’s misdiagnosis because a “complaint” had not been made.
She also denied there was an outbreak of TB in October, saying the incident was an “isolated case”.
“Public announcements about people with TB disease are rarely necessary as TB is not spread by brief, casual exposure,” she said.
She said the failure to pick up TB “is not unusual”, as it is a “relatively rare” disease in Australia.
A spokesperson for NSW Health added the term “outbreak” was used when more patients are diagnosed than expected, and added ten of the patient’s contacts had “an indication of Tuberculosis infection”.
“None had the active TB disease and all were offered preventative treatment or monitoring by their local chest clinic,” the spokesperson said.
There are around 1300 new cases of TB annually in Australia.
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