Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (581)

Brian Walsh


581. Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Health his views on whether there is a potential health risk to residents in Connemara, County Galway in view of the recent outbreak of tuberculosis on Inis Oirr, Aran Islands; his plans to change the BCG vaccination programme in the west of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12318/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE has been investigating cases of TB linked to the island of Inis Oirr since November 2012. Cases of active TB have been identified and are being treated. They no longer pose an infectious risk to others.

Surveillance and Control measures have been implemented in accordance with national guidelines. Contacts of the active cases both on Inis Oirr and the mainland have been screened. As there is a lot of social contact in a small island community, screening was offered to the entire resident population of the island. A large majority of people accepted this offer. People who have evidence of exposure to TB but no active infection are also being treated and monitored as appropriate.

The incidence of TB in the west of Ireland has been lower than in other parts of the country for the last number of years. The risk to people in Connemara should not be any higher than in the west generally.

BCG in the West of Ireland has historically been offered to primary school leaving age children as the incidence of TB peaked in the teenage years in the west in the past. Childhood TB has not been a feature of the outbreak linked to Inis Oirr.

WHO describes countries with an incidence of less than 10 cases per 100,000 population as a low incidence country. The annual notification rate of TB has declined in Ireland since 2007 when the rate was 11.3 per 100,000 (480 cases). In 2010 and 2011, the annual TB notification rates were 9.2 per 100,000 (420 cases in 2010 and 424 cases in 2011) which is the lowest rate recorded since surveillance of TB began in the 1950s and now categorise Ireland as a low incidence country. TB cases notified in 2013 to date, correspond to a provisional crude incidence rate of 8.1 per 100,000 population.

The BCG vaccination programme in Ireland is under review which will inform future policy.