Health bosses are working to establish whether three cases of tuberculosis at Belfast City Hospital are linked.
Screening is being offered to 43 former patients of ward 6 at the hospital who may be at risk of developing tuberculosis (TB) after it emerged three people have been diagnosed with the potentially deadly infection.
The first case was an elderly patient who was treated in ward 6 and was diagnosed in January. That person has since died but the cause was not tuberculosis.
A spokesperson from the Public Health Agency said: “TB is not easily transmitted and usually requires prolonged contact with an infectious case.
“The risk of developing TB from casual contact with an infectious case is low, however the screening being currently offered may help to identify any further cases.
“The most common symptoms of TB include: a persistent cough that gets progressively worse over several weeks, loss of weight for no obvious reason; fever and heavy night sweats; a general and unusual sense of tiredness and being unwell; and coughing up blood.”
Dr Tony Stevens, medical director of the Trust, told the Belfast Telegraph: “We have established the first two cases, between the patient and staff member, are linked.
“This is extremely unusual, in my 30 years working in the health service I have never seen anything like this.”
Dr Stevens said the Trust will carry out a full investigation into the outbreak. “I think this serves as a reminder that TB has not gone away, we see about 50 to 60 cases annually in Northern Ireland and doctors and nurses should be mindful of this.”
The Trust has set up an advice line for anyone who may be concerned. The number is 08009178226.