Italy tests 3,500 children for TB after doctor diagnosed

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The doctor had carried out vaccinations on thousands of small children. File photo: Pexels
10:54 CEST+02:00
A northern Italian hospital has called for almost 3,500 children to be tested for tuberculosis as a precautionary measure, after a paediatrician was diagnosed with the infectious disease.

The doctor had carried out vaccinations on the children despite first showing symptoms of tuberculosis over a year ago, Trieste's local health authority said in a statement on Tuesday.

A total of 3,490 affected families have been contacted and six clinics have been set up where children will be tested for the bacteria - a process expected to take around twelve weeks.

The hospital stressed the tests were a "precautionary and preventative measure" as the likelihood of the children contracting the disease is very low.

Each of them only came into contact with the doctor for a few minutes while the vaccination was being carried out, while the time it takes for the disease to spread, according to international protocols,, is at least eight hours.

However, children aged under six years will undergo checks as they are at higher risk of infection, the health authority said.

Six hundred babies who were treated by the doctor, and have not yet turned one, will receive prophylaxis in the form of a syrup, even if their tests come back negative. This is a precautionary measure to avoid the development of an infection.

An information helpline for families in the area has also been set up.

The doctor had first showed symptoms of the disease a year ago, but had continued working until September 15th, when her condition worsened, according to the statement.

She was hospitalized in the 'Contagious Diseases' departments of the city's main hospital but her condition is not thought to be serious.

Checks will also be carried out on some adults who have had prolonged contact with the woman, but only those who had spent over eight hours in a closed environment with her, including her colleagues and family members.

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Deputy mayor Pierpaolo Roberti told local paper Trieste Prima: "Now is the time to stay calm, trust what the health authority says and think of the health of our children."

"Then, the moment for ascertaining the causes and responsibility will come - and no allowances will be made for anyone," Roberti added.

Seven cases of tuberculosis have been reported in Trieste in 2016, compared to 13 last year, according to hospital figures.

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