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Now 30 prison officers test positive for TB

PRISON officers at a Dublin prison who tested positive for latent tuberculosis are to get chest X-rays and lung tests on Monday.

One prison officer is in a serious condition in hospital after contracting TB from an inmate at Cloverhill Prison, while another 30 officers have tested positive for exposure.

Patients with latent TB are not infectious and it is not possible to get active TB from someone with latent TB.

The main risk, experts say, is there is a small chance of them developing active TB later in life.



PREGNANT

Around 47 prison guards who were in contact with the infected prisoner in Cloverhill have been screened for the disease with 30 testing positive.

During the summer, a prisoner detained at Cloverhill was diagnosed with TB and after he fell ill, a number of staff were checked for symptoms.

Since then, several members of staff took sick and were diagnosed with TB. In a meeting with officials yesterday, officers expressed outrage and some threatened a staff walkout.

"There were officers in tears and at one stage there were calls from a number of officers, who were particularly upset, for a mass walkout," a source said.

"There are officers with heavily pregnant wives and they're terrified of going home because nothing is being explained properly here.

"For months these officers had been complaining of a rise in ill health at the prison, for months they had been demanding to receive this test, but it has taken months for their demands to be agreed to."

Another prison officer said there was a "blame game" going on between the various authorities "and we're caught in the middle".

The threats of a walkout were only allayed when national officers with the HSE were called into the jail and told staff that walking out would not change the fact that many of them had received a positive result.

Officers will now be given lung tests and chest X-rays from Monday to determine if they have contracted active TB.

A spokesman for the Irish Prison Officers Association said it would be asking the HSE "to put in place an adequate communications system where staff will be regularly updated on what is being done to manage this situation and what their next step should be".



CRAMPED

The Irish Prison Service said the IPS and the HSE were continuing to raise awareness of TB among staff and prisoners in all prisons and prison-specific advice has been circulated throughout the prison estate."

The HSE said investigations were ongoing in accordance with national guidelines. "There are no infectious cases in the prison setting," it added.

TB was the deadliest disease in Ireland in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Although outbreaks are now rare in Ireland, they can occur when people lives in cramped conditions with poor ventilation.

mlavery@herald.ie