Two new TB cases linked to British teacher

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 June, 2008, 12:00am

Two people who had been in contact with British NET teacher Clare Lennon, whose case has sparked a Hong Kong-Britain alert on tuberculosis, have been found to have 'active TB and latent TB', the Department of Health said yesterday.

A department spokesman said several more people had been identified for further tests for the disease, and they have been referred to chest clinics for free tests.

The Sunday Morning Post reported yesterday that the department and the British Health Protection Agency were urgently seeking at least 300 people, 80 per cent of them schoolchildren, who may have been in contact with Lennon.

She died days after her April 17 return to England. Lennon had cancer and tested positive to the TB mycobacterium in tests done at St Paul's Hospital in Causeway Bay, the department said.

But the hospital, where she was treated from April 10 to 17, had delayed notifying the department, as required under disease regulations, by 10 days - not eight days as previously reported, the department said.

The spokesman said a colleague of Lennon's 'was diagnosed to have active TB, but it is regarded as non-open [not infectious]'.

The colleague is a Hong Kong-Chinese female teacher at the Hong Kong Institute of Education Jockey Club Primary School in Lo Ping Road.

'The second person, also a local Chinese, is a University of Hong Kong student who has latent TB infection as diagnosed by a private practitioner and given treatment for latent TB infection,' he added. Lennon had been attending a training course at HKU.

This news came as Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok weighed in on the issue yesterday. 'There was some delay when the doctor in charge of the case informed the Health Department, as they [St Paul's] did not inform the department right after receiving the report, and the patient had already left Hong Kong,' he said.

'We think there is a need to inform the department as soon as possible so that follow-up action can be taken at once.'

The department has identified 328 people at risk, including 50 staff and 250 schoolchildren aged six to 12 at Lennon's primary school, 11 friends and classmates at the University of Hong Kong, and three visitors at the hospital.

Hong Kong's Department of Health contacted 14 Cathay Pacific passengers who were on the same flight as Lennon's on April 17 and, working with the British Health Protection Agency, found none was infected with TB.

People who are concerned about TB may call the department hotline 2833-0111.

Results are still pending on culture tests done on Lennon in Britain.