People, in particular family members, who have been in contact with the 49 patients infected with XDR- and MDR-TB who absconded from hospital in the Eastern Cape, are urged to be tested for the disease, the province's health department said on Friday.
"We urge families of those TB patients to go for screening because they are the ones that are in close contact," said spokesman Siyanda Manana.
This was contrary to earlier news reports that the department urged visitors to the province to visit TB clinics for a screening, after fears that they could have been in contact with the group left a Port Elizabeth hospital last month.
Extensive drug-resistant (XDR) TB is virtually untreatable and is spread by coughing or sneezing. Therefore movements of patients who carry it should ideally be restricted because they pose a major threat to public health.
Sharing space with an infected person
Manana said the only way to be infected was if one spent a long time with an infected person in a confined space.
"Your chances of being infected are also high if you are in close proximity with a person less than two metres away and your immune system is not strong, hence I urge families of those patients to get tested," he said.
Manana said 27 out of the 49 XDR and MDR patients who left the Jose Pearson Hospital were still missing.
A court order has been issued and a sheriff will be going from door-to-door taking all the patients back.
It was subsequently discovered the patients had escaped through holes they had cut through the hospital's perimeter fences.
"The department has also contracted a new security guard company and increased the number of security guards to 34 in the hospital," said Manana. – (Sapa)
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