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