'No risk' to school pupils who visited jail hit by TB
A SCHOOL group that visited the prison at the centre of a tuberculosis (TB) outbreak was at no risk of contracting the infectious disease, prison authorities insisted yesterday.
Around 30 prison officers at Cloverhill Prison in Dublin have so far tested positive for latent TB, and another is being treated in hospital for a serious case of the respiratory disease.
However, in the same week as the prison officer was hospitalised, a pre-arranged visit by 21 students and two teachers still went ahead on October 21.
No details were given on the age or gender of the children who attended.
A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said the school party were never at any risk of contracting the disease.
"As you will be aware, tuberculosis is an airborne infectious disease that spreads through close and prolonged contact," he said.
"As such, these students and teachers were at no risk while visiting the prison.
"It is also important to note that if any infectious TB case was identified in the prison, the person concerned would be immediately transferred to hospital and would not return to the prison until it is confirmed that the patient is no longer infectious."
The Irish Prison Service spokesperson said visits by school groups were allowed occasionally and were used to show young people what prison was like, and to hopefully act as a deterrent in the future.
However, he added that, in the case of this visit, it took place while the prison was in "lock-down" and at no stage did the students have direct contact with prisoners.
The Health Services Executive (HSE), which has been screening prison officers for TB, has so far found that 30 have tested positive for the latent form of the disease. They had come into contact with a prisoner who was infected with the disease during the summer.
People with latent TB do not have symptoms and cannot spread the infection on to others. However, the TB bacteria remains dormant in their system and can become active later in life.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said it took every case of disease seriously and its TB team was continuing to investigate the present situation in Cloverhill Prison.
However, she added there are currently no infectious cases at the prison.