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International Avans students queue in the cold for TB screening

A group of non-EU Avans students underwent a lung check in Breda last Tuesday. The GGD Breda Municipal Health Service tested them for tuberculosis (TB).

The GGD’s mobile X-ray screening unit was parked outside the main entrance of the Avans building on Hogeschoollaan in Breda on Tuesday morning. New students who are non-EU nationals received an invitation to undergo this mandatory examination from the International Office. In order to become eligible for a residence permit, these students were required to sign a form back in their home country stating they didn’t have TB. The GGD performed checks on Tuesday to see if this was indeed the case.

On a cold morning, students formed a long queue outside the unit to undergo a quick screening. They were called inside one by one and had their passports checked to ensure the Breda GGD would receive the correct form. This was followed by a chest X-ray. ‘We carry out TB screenings because these students receive a residence permit from the Netherlands Immigration and Naturalisation Service IND, but only under the express condition that they are tested for TB within 3 months of arrival. This is imperative, because tuberculosis can become infectious if not treated,’ John van Gool, the GGD staff member taking the X-rays, said.

Common cold
De students did not receive the results on the spot. Instead, the X-rays were sent to the Breda GGD for review by a doctor specialising in TB. ‘A student will be contacted within 3 days if the X-ray shows something irregular. This does not necessarily mean they have TB. They could have just caught a cold. The TB physician will require students in such cases to undergo additional X-rays or a respiratory examination. If it turns out they are infected with TB, this physician will develop a treatment plan,’ tuberculosis control staff member Jopie van Groesen added.

Repatriation prohibited
There’s no need for the students to be anxious, however. The GGD hardly ever meets with a case of TB. And students who do present with the disease are not sent back to their country of origin. John: ‘Even if we wanted to, legislation simply wouldn’t allow it. The Netherlands does not import or export tuberculosis. Students infected with TB will receive treatment, allowing them to stay in the Netherlands.’

Humiliating versus fun
‘It’s a good thing they carry out these checks, but it’s humiliating too,’ a new Avans student from Azerbaijan complained. ‘Why only us? Why are international students from EU Member States exempted from these tests? It all just seems a bit odd to me. I believe they should screen either everybody or nobody at all.’ Dutch and EU students are not tested because they’re not from high-risk TB countries.

‘I imagined it would be stressful and that they would subject me to all kinds of tests. But actually it was quite a fun experience and it was over in a flash. I wasn’t expecting that at all,’ a student from Tanzania said enthusiastically after her screening. ‘I believe this scheme is very valuable. It tells you whether you are healthy or not. If there is something wrong, they can help you.’

If you want to find out more about tuberculosis, please visit http://www.kncvtbc.org/.

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