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A tuberculosis mystery in Simpson

Health officials still baffled by positive test results

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Dec 21/01) - If nobody in Fort Simpson has an active case of tuberculosis, Deh Cho Health and Social Services wonders why so many people tested positive for exposure to the disease.

Mantoux testing at Thomas Simpson school is complete and close to 10 per cent of the approximately 120 students have been in contact with TB bacteria, Lynne Morin, manager of health services, said Friday.

Those individuals were given antibiotics as a precautionary measure even though they exhibit no TB symptoms and further testing has confirmed they do not have active tuberculosis, she said.

There appears to be a higher incidence among the 14- to 17-year-old age group, she said.

"They haven't pinpointed any one thing ... members of a certain club or a group of people that play on a certain team or something like that," she said.

Family members were also tested, but Morin said she wasn't sure whether any of them tested positive.

Cheryl Case, a TB specialist from Yellowknife, visited Fort Simpson Monday and Tuesday to inform nurses, home-care workers and teachers of the nature of TB and how it spreads.

"We're trying to cover all of the workers so that they're in a position to recognize signs and symptoms," Morin said.

Tuberculosis has become a concern in Fort Smith over the past few months as well. Morin said she didn't know whether there may be a connection with Fort Simpson, but said Case would likely be aware. As of Friday, testing had not been concluded at Bompas elementary school, but most students had been checked, according to Morin.

"There's lots and lots of interest and awareness from the parents," Morin said.

"They're asking excellent questions and they're asking for explanations when they don't understand things."

The direction that Deh Cho Health and Social Services takes in the near future will depend on the outcome of the remainder of the school tests, said Morin.

"If an index (active) case doesn't turn up, then certainly we will be looking further," she said.