18/05/2017 5:07 PM AEST | Updated 18/05/2017 5:11 PM AEST

22 People Potentially Exposed To Tuberculosis In Sydney Hospitals

A man with TB attended two Sydney hospitals earlier this year.

Mariana Bazo / Reuters

NSW Health is screening 22 people for tuberculosis after they were potentially exposed while sharing a hospital ward earlier this year with a man diagnosed with the disease.

The state health service announced Thursday it was undertaking "precautionary" screenings for the disease, for patients, healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed at Royal Prince Alfred and St Vincent's hospitals.

A man in his 30s had attended both hospitals in February and April, "but was only recently diagnosed, as he presented with symptoms not typical of TB," the department said in a media release.

"TB does not spread easily from person to person and there is no ongoing risk to patients, staff or visitors of either hospital. Generally, transmission of TB typically occurs after close, prolonged contact with a person who is infectious at the time," said Dr Jeremy McAnulty, director, health protection.

"As a precaution however, NSW Health is identifying and directly contacting patients, healthcare workers and others who may have been in contact with this patient."

McAnulty said "90 percent" of infections do not progress to the TB disease, and can be treated with antibiotics. The people being contacted and screened were patients and staff in the same ward as the man when he attended the Sydney hospitals.

"Should any patients or staff have a positive TB test, a chest x-ray examination and specialist medical review will be arranged," NSW Health said.

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by a bacterial infection which affects the lungs and other parts of the body. Symptoms include a long-lasting cough, fever, weight loss, night sweats, fatigue, bloody phlegm, general pain and swelling, and loss of appetite, according to NSW Health. It can be fatal.

"While TB is a common disease worldwide, the incidence of TB in Australia is very low, with about 1,300 cases diagnosed here each year. Australia has a long history of successfully containing and treating tuberculosis," NSW Health said.

Anyone with concerns can call the below information lines, operating 24/7:

  • Royal Prince Alfred Hospital: 1300 266 306
  • St Vincent's Hospital: 1800 901 922

More information on tuberculosis is available on the NSW Health website, here and here.