TB outbreak at Brighton hospital sparks ‘widespread investigation’

Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton
Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton

The NHS trust running hospitals in Brighton and Haywards Heath said it invited more than 1,000 patients and staff for screening after it confirmed an outbreak of tuberculosis (TB) at one of its sites.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH) said there were three cases at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton

Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton

Transmission was between a patient, a staff member and another patient, the trust said.

It added that there were ‘robust plans’ in place to prevent further cases.

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A BSUH spokesperson said: “This was a strain of TB that is not routinely seen in hospitals and the Trust has been working closely with Public Health England.

“We have carried out a widespread investigation and contacted 321 patients and 745 staff to make them aware of the signs and symptoms of the infection and invite them to come in for screening.

“We have screened almost 400 people and no cases of active TB have currently been identified.

“Transmission of the infection was not linked to any deficiencies in care and our management of this incident has received the support of both Public Health England and The TB Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“Hospitals are obviously places where people come when they are unwell, which is why we, like all trusts, have robust plans in place to deal with these issues and help prevent further cases. It is because of these plans and our staff that we don’t see more incidents like this.”

Public Health England (PHE) said it ‘provided advice to the local community following a single case of infectious tuberculosis (TB) in Brighton’.

It said Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust together with PHE arranged for those known to have been in close contact with the individual to be tested for any signs of the illness.

Rachel Cloke, health protection consultant at PHE South East, said: “TB does not spread easily and is fully treatable with antibiotics. TB tends to be passed on only after prolonged close contact with an infectious person over several days – it is rare for people other than close contacts to catch the infection from someone who is infectious.

“A thorough investigation helped identify close contacts who were tested and given appropriate treatment, where required.”

What is tuberculosis?

Public Health England said TB is a disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It can affect many parts of the body but usually affects the lungs and is curable with a course of antibiotics.

TB is difficult to catch as it is only transmitted after prolonged close contact over several days.

It is spread through the air when infectious people who have the disease cough, however it is rare for people other than household contacts to catch the infection from someone with TB.

The NHS says: “Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person.

“It mainly affects the lungs, but it can affect any part of the body, including the tummy (abdomen) glands, bones and nervous system.

“TB is a serious condition, but it can be cured if it’s treated with the right antibiotics.”

What are the symptoms?

Signs and symptoms of TB include:

• a persistent cough which does not disappear after two weeks

• unexplained weight loss

• night sweats

Find out more about tuberculosis and its symptoms, here.