A leading expert on tuberculosis (TB) has said Ireland has not been very diligent in dealing with the prevention of the disease.

Joseph Keane, a respiratory physician and professor said "the issue (TB) has gone way down the political agenda."

Keane was commenting at the weekend after the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the Republic of Ireland confirmed that over 200 children in a Co. Cork school were to be tested for TB after three children in the school were identified to have had the disease.

"This is about this country's decision to ignore the growth in latent TB and to prevent it from waking up in people," said Keane.

"We have taken our eye off the ball in dealing with TB. The issue has gone way down the political agenda."

Keane said each year Ireland has approximately 480 cases of TB each year and the number is quickly rising.

"In world terms, we are very ordinary in how we go about dealing with TB epidemics and it's time to start work on prevention rather than cure," he said.

Keane suggests ways to prevent the disease from spreading which include monitoring "vulnerable groups" such as the homeless and to be watchful for people who have emigrated from countries with high prevalence of the disease.

The infected children from Ballintemple National School in Cork city have started anti-tuberculosis treatment and are under specialist paediatric care.

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