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Tuberculosis Two pupils ill with TB in northern Switzerland

Doctor shows lungs

TB can affect the lungs (symbol picture)

(Keystone / Silas Stein)

Two pupils in two different schools have become ill with tuberculosis, a rare disease in Switzerland. One of those affected, a girl attending primary school, is being treated in hospital. 

Denise Widmer, the head of schools in the town of Suhr, canton Aarau, confirmed the primary pupil’s illness to the Swiss national broadcaster SRFexternal link after reports appeared in online Swiss media. The child has been in hospital for three weeks.

The primary school has informed its 1,350 parents about the girl’s condition by letter. It called for all those who had been in contact with the girl for more than eight hours over the last two months to go for a blood test because of a risk of transmission. This concerns around 28 people, both young and old.

It is thought the girl, who is under 12, became infected during the school summer holidays. No further measures are planned by the school, but it is in contact with the local branch of the Swiss lung league and the cantonal authorities.

Second case

It has also been revealed that a second, older pupil has come down with TB at a lower secondary school in Oberkulm, which is around 15 minutes’ drive from Suhr. This was confirmed by local school officials to the Swiss news agency. This was again thought to have happened during the holidays and parents and classmates were informed at the end of August. Blood tests will shortly take place.

The last case of school TB in Switzerland dates back to May in Sion, Valais, in which 60 people had to undergo blood testing.

Rare

There are around 550 cases of TB a year in Switzerland, according to the Federal Health Officeexternal link, , most of which affect people who came to Switzerland from abroad. 

The illnessexternal link, which is caused by bacteria that most often affect the lungs, is curable and preventable. It is spread through the air and progresses slowly.

According to an article in the Swiss Medical Weeklyexternal link published last year, TB is still a rare disease in Switzerland. According to World Health Organization figures cited in the report, the incidence rate was 7.4 per 100,000 of the population in 2015 for Switzerland, similar to that of neighbouring countries like Germany (8.1), France (8.2) and Italy (5.8).

Keystone-SDA/SRF/ilj

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