The Health Department will test several ABC employees for tuberculosis after a male staff member was last week diagnosed with the potentially fatal bacterial disease.

ABC director Geoff Duncan sent an email to all staff at the national broadcaster's East Perth office yesterday to advise them about the diagnosis and organise for anyone who had come into close contact with the infected employee to attend a briefing with the Health Department's case manager.

"For privacy reasons the name of this staff member will not be disclosed, however, I am pleased to advise that the staff member is being treated and is responding well to treatment," Mr Duncan said. "The Department of Health will visit ABC Perth this afternoon to provide further information to management and to staff members who may have been in close contact with the staff member now diagnosed. We believe they are few in number.

"The Department of Health will write to these staff members shortly advising them to be tested for TB.

Tuberculosis typically affects the lungs. Symptoms can include a persistent cough, tiredness, night sweats and weight loss.

About 100 cases of tuberculosis have been diagnosed in WA this year, but a North Metropolitan Health Service spokeswoman said more than 90 per cent of victims had contracted the disease outside Australia. There were 123 cases of tuberculosis reported in WA last year.

"Contacts should not be alarmed," she said. "People that have contact with TB may become infected, but usually do not become unwell and do not themselves pass the infection on.

"The tuberculosis control program routinely tests contacts for TB infection and if infection is found, treatment can be given which effectively prevents the contact from becoming unwell in the future. TB is not highly contagious and is relatively difficult to contract. It is usually spread by breathing in the tuberculosis bacteria after a person who is unwell with the condition coughs or sneezes."

An ABC spokeswoman said staff at the office had been told about the disease as soon as possible.

The staff member involved would receive treatment and other staff could choose to be tested if they wished.

'The staff member is being treated and is responding well to treatment.' " ABC director * Geoff Duncan *

The West Australian

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