Confirmed tuberculosis case at Calgary daycare prompts alert from AHS

200 people potentially exposed to TB at north Calgary high school

Alberta Health Services announced Wednesday that it has issued 150 letters to people who may have been exposed, or had their child exposed, to tuberculosis at an unidentified Calgary daycare.

The only people at risk are the recipients of the letters, and AHS has determined the risk to them to be low.

The AHS said the case does not present an ongoing risk to either the daycare or the general public.

The notification letters include information for making arrangements for standard TB assessment, screening and, if need be, treatment.

In the interest of patient confidentiality, AHS declined to release any case-specific details, including the name of the daycare.

'Very, very treatable,' doctor says

The announcement of TB exposure may come as a surprise to many, but Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, says she has treated multiple cases in the past.

"Tuberculosis kind of doesn't seem like it's super current or of this generation. Most people think of it as being more historic," Saxinger said. "But we do see TB on an ongoing basis in our communities, for sure."

Although she's not directly involved with this case, she said the low-risk assessment means it likely didn't affect the person's lungs, making it harder to spread. She said the infection might instead present in the lymph nodes, for example.

"It sounds scary but it is very, very treatable. You need multiple antibiotics for a longer time period," Saxinger said. "But the vast majority of patients have treatable infection. The harder part is thinking of it and finding it, honestly."

TB often appears as a chronic cough in a patient who was exposed years earlier, she said, for example, in a nursing home resident who may have contracted TB as a child in the 1930s.

Other times, someone from a place with high instances of TB — like African nations, Asia or Canada's North — may start showing symptoms. (All newcomers to Canada are screened for TB, though it may be missed if the disease was dormant, she said.)

Anyone with questions about TB or this case at the Calgary daycare can call Health Link at 811.