Employees at two of the T&T Electricity Commission’s (T&TEC) central offices have accused management of concealing a tuberculosis outbreak. This follows the warding of a female employee at the Caura Hospital in El Dorado after she tested positive for the disease in early March. She was stationed at T&TEC’s King Village, California Stores Department.
Four other employees at the Point Lisas Distribution Centre tested positive for a latent (inactive) form of the disease but were not hospitalised.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually attacks the lungs, but can also damage other parts of the body. The disease spreads through the air when a person with TB of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, or talks. It can be deadly if not treated.
One employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said despite the early March diagnosis of his co-worker other employees were not told until they demanded answers from management.
“They are saying it is not an outbreak, so they never informed us so as not to alarm the employees,” the employee said. “Rumours were spreading and when the supervisors were confronted with them on Wednesday, they said they didn’t want to alarm us, so they did not tell us anything.”
The employee said staff have not been given an update on their colleague’s condition.
“We were told she is Caura Hospital and people are saying you don’t get sent to Caura unless the virus is strong on you but we don’t have any more information.”
T&TEC’s Corporate Communications Manager, Annabelle Brasnell confirmed that an employee is “currently off the job, having been diagnosed with Tuberculosis.”
She added: “Four employees have been diagnosed with a dormant TB virus. The Ministry of Health has advised that they cannot infect others in this state. They are following the necessary protocols to ensure their health improves. They are not warded at any health facility.
“After confirmation of the TB diagnosis of one employee who is assigned to work between two of the Commission’s Central locations, health testing was carried on other employees who may have been in contact. This testing showed the four persons mentioned above with the dormant virus.”
Brasnell said doctors involved in the case have been unable to find the source of the dormant virus that infected the four employees. She said T&TEC has been informed by the Ministry of Health that TB cannot be spread by casual contact between colleagues in the workplace.
However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says differently. Its official website states that tuberculosis is “spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.”
WHO says about one-quarter of the world’s population has latent TB.
Brasnell said the Health Ministry held an awareness session with staff at the King Village, California office and another is scheduled for Thursday at the Pt Lisas department.