Japanese student gives TB to host family
By Derek Spalding
The Daily News
June 21, 2010
A Nanaimo mother is frustrated with Vancouver Island University after her three-year-old son contracted tuberculosis after being exposed to an infected exchange student visiting from Japan.
Maleah Davies's son had a positive skin test for TB and will begin at least a nine-month medical regime that could have some nasty side effects, such as skin rashes, nausea, lethargy and stomach aches. Chest X-rays will confirm whether or not he has active TB, but doctors are confident he does not, according to the boy's mother. News of the infection came from Tamagawa University in Machida, Tokyo in July 2009.
The campus director of health found out that a student, who tested positive for TB, had spent nearly four months at the Tamagawa campus in Cedar and had been living with a host family between March 30 and
July 20 of that same year. That host was Davies's ex-husband.
Her two sons spent weekends at their dad's home and had to be tested for exposure. The oldest son had negative test results, but the youngest had a positive skin test. He is not contagious until he has active TB, but medication will likely prevent that from happening, said health officials.
Davies contacted the school to find out why the student wasn't screened before he arrived, but VIU communications officer
Toni O'Keeffe said the school follows Citizenship and Immigration Canada guidelines.
Officials at the Tamagawa University campus in Cedar said students who stay for the four-month program are not required to have TB testing. Citizenship and Immigration Canada requires people to have health testing for anyone staying longer than six months.
VIU is working with Tamagawa to increase the guidelines to improve safety, said O'Keeffe.
A Vancouver Island Health Authority spokeswoman said yesterday that Nanaimo has about 45 to 50 positive skin tests being monitored at any given time.
Davies's son will take Isoniazid for at least nine months, a regime that will reduce his risk of developing TB by 90%. He will also need Vitamin B6 to combat other side effects that include numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
The single mother of two boys wants to see changes to health testing in foreign students, visiting Canada.