Queues con­tinue as peo­ple flock to TB test­ing ses­sions...with calls for as­sur­ances over town out­break

Llanelli Star - - FRONT PAGE - Ian Lewis @IanLewis80 [email protected]­line.co.uk 07790 591150

A SERV­ING solider in the Bri­tish Army has re­vealed he is not al­lowed to re­turn to his reg­i­men­tal base in Eng­land un­til he gets the all clear at screen­ing ses­sions for TB in Llanelli.

The screen­ings are an at­tempt to bring un­der con­trol an on­go­ing out­break of TB in the vil­lage of Ll­wyn­hendy.

There is evidence to sug­gest there are a num­ber of as-yet uniden­ti­fied ac­tive and la­tent TB cases in the vil­lage, health of­fi­cials have said.

The ser­vice­man, who lives lo­cally but did not want to be named, was among hun­dreds of peo­ple who flocked to Ll­wyn­hendy Health Cen­tre on Thurs­day to be tested for TB after it was an­nounced the night be­fore that an ex­tra session was be­ing held.

He said: “I can’t go back to the Army un­til the tests come back, so that’s why I’m here to be screened.

“When they found out about the TB tests they told me to be checked and that I can only go back when I get the all clear from the re­sults. It’s un­der­stand­able and has to be done.”

Pub­lic Health Wales and Hy­wel Dda Univer­sity Health Board have pro­vided the ses­sions.

Those who may have been ex­posed to TB have been asked to take part in the pro­gramme.

An ad­di­tional call was is­sued to peo­ple who may have been ex­posed to TB as an adult cus­tomer or em­ployee of the Join­ers Arms pub in Ll­wyn­hendy be­tween 2005 and 2018.

The out­break has killed one woman, with 29 cases of TB linked to the in­fec­tions in the Llanelli area.

Mar­garet Pe­gler, aged 64, from Ll­wyn­hendy, died just five days after be­ing told she had the dis­ease in Septem­ber.

Of the five held ses­sions last Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, which orig­i­nally had ca­pac­ity for 700 peo­ple, one was ex­tended to meet pub­lic de­mand.

Thurs­day’s ad­di­tional screen­ing at the health cen­tre saw peo­ple queue­ing from be­fore the 8am start time – but num­bers were con­sid­er­ably fewer than pre­vi­ous days.

The screen­ings, which have also been held at the Join­ers Arms and Parc y Scar­lets, are an at­tempt to bring un­der con­trol an on­go­ing out­break of TB in Ll­wyn­hendy.

Oth­ers in line on Thurs­day at the health cen­tre said it was their sec­ond at­tempt at try­ing to be tested due to the sheer vol­ume of peo­ple who turned up.

Tom Roper, aged 28 from the vil­lage, said: “I was here last night (Wed­nes­day) and they stopped the line just as I was get­ting near the door, so I’ve come first thing this morn­ing.

“It’s good the tests have been done but I think bet­ter or­gan­i­sa­tion was needed.”

On ar­rival at the health cen­tre there were two lines for the pub­lic to join, one to have a chest x-ray, which gave re­sults im­me­di­ately, and then another to get a blood test. Both mea­sures are able to in­di­cate the prece­dence of TB.

The X-ray mo­bile unit is the only one of its kind in the UK and was drafted in from London for the Llanelli screen­ings – split­ting its time be­tween the health cen­tre and sta­dium.

The unit is of­ten used in London to test the home­less for TB.

Else­where in the queue, Keith Wil­liams, aged 33, and his part­ner, Jes­sica Wilkin­son, from Morfa, said they were not overly con­cerned but be­ing tested as a pre­cau­tion.

Mr Wil­liams said: “I didn’t know it was an air­borne, to be hon­est, so we have come down to have the screen­ing.

“There are con­cerns but peo­ple have just been get­ting on with it and get­ting the tests done.”

Another be­ing tested was Gaynor Davies, aged 68, who lives in the town cen­tre.

She said: “My hus­band knows some­one in the area and we used to go to the Join­ers Arms so it’s im­por­tant to be tested and I am glad the health board is do­ing it.”

Staff from both Pub­lic Health Wales and Hy­wel Dda Univer­sity Health Board were on hand to ad­vise those turn­ing up across the three days of screen­ing.

Doc­tor Gareth Morgan, who has a back­ground in pub­lic health, said it was the first time in his 25- year ca­reer that he had dealt with TB screen­ing.

He said: “Fifty years ago it was preva­lent but in all my years as a doc­tor I have not dealt with it.

“The im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber is that TB is treat­able.

“As well as the screen­ings this week we are now of­fer­ing ap­point­ments for peo­ple to come for tests.

“We have been of­fer­ing these here to­day, for those who per­haps don’t want to wait in line we are tak­ing their de­tails and ar­rang­ing ap­point­ments over com­ing weeks.

“Any­one who hasn’t been tested at these ses­sions and wants to be can do so.”

All par­tic­i­pants in the pro­gramme will be con­tacted in the next few weeks with the re­sults.

Ad­dress­ing con­cerns that some mem­bers of the pub­lic have raised over

why action was not taken sooner in terms of screen­ing, Dr Morgan said: “There are two fac­tors, one is that TB has a la­tent phase, mean­ing symp­toms don’t show for some time.

“The sec­ond is that leg­is­la­tion from the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion has changed on how we tackle the erad­i­ca­tion of TB.”

Com­mu­nity lead­ers have com­mended the ac­tions of the health board and pub­lic health chiefs.

Car­marthen­shire coun­cil­lor Rob James said: “The ef­forts of the health com­mu­nity has been tremen­dous over the last few days. I think it’s fair to say that they were shocked by the long queues in the aw­ful weather.

“De­spite over a thou­sand peo­ple hav­ing been tested, a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als have been turned away after run­ning out of time. Our fo­cus will now be to en­sure all res­i­dents have been un­able to get tested be of­fered that chance in the very near fu­ture.”

Fozia Akhtar, a coun­cil­lor for Ll­wyn­hendy, said: “I’ve had nu­mer­ous phone calls from res­i­dents re­quest­ing more ses­sions to meet the de­mand and that will be my fo­cus go­ing for­ward.”

Deryk Cundy, coun­cil

lor for Bynea, stated: “The TB screen­ing has been one of the largest of its type in the UK.

“The Pub­lic Health and Hy­wel Dda med­i­cal per­son­nel have worked ex­cep­tion­ally hard and de­serve our thanks for

their ded­i­ca­tion and pa­tience. It has been con­firmed by Dr Ma­son who is the lead on the TB screen­ing pro­gramme that the Join­ers Arms pub is not only a pop­u­lar pub but also has clean bill of health.”

The com­mu­nity re­sponse to the screen­ing exercise has been ex­cel­lent. The ex­tended and ex­tra session are be­ing of­fered to en­sure that ev­ery­one who comes for­ward can be screened Dr Bren­dan Ma­son, con­sul­tant in com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­ease con­trol

Peo­ple were queue­ing be­fore 8am yes­ter­day for another TB screen­ing session at Ll­wyn­hendy Health Cen­tre, in Llanelli.

Mark John and Tom Roper.

Jes­sica Wilkin­son and Keith Wil­liams.

Grand­mother Mar­garet Pe­gler, aged 64, died and at least 29 other peo­ple have been in­fected with TB. Right, the Join­ers Arms in Ll­wyn­hendy.

Doc­tor Gareth Morgan.

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