Tuberculosis infects Cambridgeshire factory workers

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Staff at two vegetable packing plants in Cambridgeshire have been infected with tuberculosis, Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed.

Officials said 17 staff at two sites in the Chatteris area had been diagnosed with the disease since 2012.

Six patients were diagnosed with TB in 2012, nine in 2013 and two so far this year.

The PHE said there was "no evidence" tuberculosis could be caught from consuming the factories' vegetables.

The agency added the affected workers from the un-named plants were receiving treatment and were "no longer infectious".

Symptoms of TB

Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria

TB develops slowly in the body and it usually takes several months for symptoms to appear. They include:

  • Fever and night sweats
  • Unexplained prolonged cough
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in phlegm or spit at any time

Source: PHE

Details of the infections came to light on Friday when Paul Bullen, leader of UKIP on Cambridgeshire County Council, said he had "been hearing rumours" about the infection.

He alleged the county council had known it "for some time" but had "made no effort to alert the public".

Mr Bullen said he had been advised TB was "endemic" at the plants.

He added: "I believe that officers of the council in various departments have known about this for some time and have made no effort to alert the public. This cannot be right."

'Not easily spread'

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said it was "working closely with PHE" and that "advice had been displayed in the affected factories and TB fact sheets had been circulated with staff payslips".

A PHE spokeswoman confirmed one person with tuberculosis had died, but it was not known the death was related to the disease as the patient had other health problems.

Dr Giri Shankar, consultant in communicable disease control with the PHE, said the disease was "not easily spread unless you have had close prolonged contact with an infected individual."

She added the PHE was "following up on close contacts of cases and will also be carrying out screening.

"There is no evidence to suggest TB transmission can occur from consumption of vegetables from the factories," she said.

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