As many as 300 children could be at risk of TB from hospital doctor

After a doctor at Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital tested positive for tuberculosis (TB), authorities say as many as 300 babies have been identified who may have come into contact with the doctor and could be at risk.

About 75 of the children are too young to be tested but have been given preventive antibiotics until they are three months old when they can then have a skin test, but it will take a second test at six months old before they can be given the all clear.

The infants have been given the antibiotics as a precaution, even though the risk of infection is extremely low and other children and hospital staff are being offered testing.

TB attacks the lungs and can be fatal if left untreated and symptoms can take up to three months to appear - the infection can also reactivate later in life.

The SA Health department says doctors are contacting the families of those children at risk.

According to South Australia's Chief medical officer Professor Paddy Phillips there was no sign of TB when the Indian doctor arrived in Australia in March and he passed the screening process and was well and healthy.

The Immigration Department also say a medical examination and chest x-ray carried out in India by an approved doctor before he came to Australia were also clear and the doctor was free from any signs of TB and it was precautionary screening by SA Health in November, which detected the infection.

The infected doctor was working mainly with sick and premature babies, before he was diagnosed with the respiratory illness and is now on sick leave but there is concern that babies and vulnerable children may have been put at risk.

According to Professor Phillips everything is being done to ensure the health of the infants. Experts say it could be months before those who may have been exposed to the tuberculosis can be cleared.

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