Tuesday 26 March 2019

Boy (11) diagnosed with TB after father picked up infection from contaminated prisoners at work

Cloverhill Prison
Cloverhill Prison

Ray Managh

An 11-year-old schoolboy, who had become a carrier of latent tuberculosis as a result of an infection picked up by his father from contaminated prisoners in his work as a prison officer, has been awarded €35,000 damages in the Circuit Civil Court.

Judge Eoin Garavan heard that the boy, who is not being identified by the media to protect him from peer bullying, had, prior to treatment, became part of the one third of the world population who, unknowingly, are carriers of the disease.

Barrister Karen Nolan, who appeared with Naas solicitor Liam Moloney for the boy and his mother, told Judge Garavan there had been an outbreak of tuberculosis at Cloverhill Remand Prison in 2010 and the boy’s father was diagnosed with TB in 2015.

Ms Nolan said it was believed to be associated with his work with infected prisoners at the prison towards the end of 2010 and early 2011.

She told the court that the boy, who is now 14, had been diagnosed with TB in 2016 and had to undergo treatment stretching over six months and after a full recovery was no longer a carrier although he remains at increased risk of developing full-blown TB.

Judge Garavan said it was a highly unusual case in that the boy’s father, by reason of his occupation in the prison which brought him into daily close contact with infected prisoners, had himself later developed full-blown tuberculosis.

Ms Nolan said the boy’s mother had also developed latent TB. She said a third of the world’s population have LTB and don’t know they are carriers and their condition seldom develops into full tuberculosis.

She told Judge Garavan that the Irish Prison Service and the Minister for Justice and Equality, who were defendants in the case taken by the boy and his mother, had taken a very proactive responsible attitude to discovery of the outbreak and prisoners and prison officers had undergone active progressive treatment and protection treatment against the disease, side effects of which can interfere with liver function. The boy’s father had afterwards, and prior to his diagnosis, been transferred to another prison where the Irish Prison Service had been equally proactive in taking precautions with regard to other prison officers and prisoners.

Ms Nolan said that although the defendants had entered a full defence to the boy’s claim it was highly unlikely, given the timing of developments, that the infection had been picked up from another source.

Judge Garavan, approving a €35,000 settlement offer from the defendants, said the boy clearly had been successfully treated for the problem. The court would not be entirely worried about any liability issue in the case and the problem was something for the prison authorities to look at.

He said the boy had “suffered a nasty little life experience” but had fortunately fully recovered.

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