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Nurses keep fighting TB despite the risks

A nurse wearing a mask.
A nurse wearing a mask.
Image: Mduduzi Ndzingi

Contracting tuberculosis (TB) at work has not deterred a nurse from assisting patients who suffer from the disease.

Yesterday, Meisie Motlafe, 48, was among staff members at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital handing out pamphlets to mark World TB Awareness Day.

South Africa has one of the world's highest infection rates of TB with more than 400 000 cases, making it a leading cause of death in the country.

Those at the forefront of fighting the disease have not been spared from the scourge, with the World Health Organisation confirming that 10 000 healthcare workers were infected globally in 2016.

Yesterday, Motlafe, who has worked at the hospital's TB treatment centre since 2003, said she tested positive for the disease last year after experiencing severe fatigue, one of the symptoms of TB.

"I was not shocked when the test came back positive because I was always aware of the risks that come with working in such an environment."

Motlafe went through the six months' treatment and is now TB-free. "I'm happy to be back at work because I love helping people and working with cancer patients."

Another nurse at the TB centre, who asked not to be named, contracted TB in 2005. "When the doctor told me that I tested positive, I just cried," she said.

The nurse said the fear of contracting multi-drug resistant TB, a very dangerous strain of the disease, pushed her to finish her treatment. "Now we make sure that we wear masks."

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