Tuberculosis scare could result in medical negligence claims

Date: Apr 06, 2017

Medical negligence claims could be on the horizon after a student was reportedly told he had both asthma and lung cancer before doctors instead realised he had a highly contagious strain of tuberculosis (TB).

Last month, a News Corp Australia investigation revealed that a further 10 people contracted the disease after the 23-year-old university attendee was allegedly repeatedly misdiagnosed over a three-month period.

The Sydney University graduate, who the media organisation dubbed Patient Zero to maintain the individual’s anonymity, attended his GP on three separate occasions before being referred for an X-ray.

The procedure revealed a 6-centimetre hole in his lung, which the inner-west Sydney medical practitioner believed was due to cancer.

However, the patient was later diagnosed with a drug-resistant strain of TB, by which time he had already passed the disease on to more people, including family members, other students and work colleagues.

“I just felt like I had a really bad flu that wouldn’t go away,” he told News Corp Australia. “I was otherwise still myself and was even surfing three times a week.”

He believes he picked up the illness while travelling, having recently visited Morocco, Cambodia, Bali, Thailand and Vietnam.

TB and medical negligence claims

The federal government’s healthdirect website outlines TB’s key symptoms as:

  • A persistent cough lasting longer than three weeks;
  • Fevers and night sweats;
  • Coughing up blood or sputum;
  • Weight loss; and
  • Feeling tired or unwell.

Misdiagnosis of a serious disease can lead to medical negligence claims against GPs. Nevertheless, Director of Communicable Diseases at NSW Health Vicky Sheppeard claimed there was currently no investigation into the TB misdiagnosis because no one had yet made a complaint.

The news comes as The Tuberculosis Centre for Research Excellence announced it would run out of funding by the end of 2017.

Gabriella Scandurra, the organisation’s executive officer, said TB cases are going to “shoot up” in the near future because Australian travellers will come back to the country with the disease.

“This is just a ticking time bomb, and it is going to be a complete economic catastrophe for Australia if we have more drug resistant strains because the cost of keeping people in isolation is astronomical,” he explained.

Patient Zero was kept in three-week isolation at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital before being allowed back home, where he stayed quarantined for a further two months. He is currently taking 16.5 antibiotics a day and will do so for another nine months.

Has your quality of life suffered due to a misdiagnosis? Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers can help, so please contact us today.

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