A former prison officer who claims she was unknowingly exposed to tuberculosis at work has been awarded a five figure payout from her bosses.
Fiona Murphy, 45, looked after prisoners at high security HMP Wakefield and as part of her job says she would often accompany nursing staff on their rounds.
In 2010 she was asked to help attend to four poorly prisoners, but claims it was not until several days later that she discovered they were suffering from highly infectious TB.
And it was not until weeks later when, struggling to shake off what she believed was a particularly bad bout of the flu, she too was diagnosed with a severe strain of the disease.
She said: “I went to a walk-in centre from work because I felt like I was going to collapse. I was exhausted and had lost my appetite completely so was drastically losing weight.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t breathe properly and was sleeping sitting up.
“I didn’t even know what the symptoms of TB were, I just thought I had the flu.”
Fiona, who lives in Barnsley, was referred to hospital where she spent six days in isolation. Even when discharged, she was advised to confine herself to the house and it was several months before she could return to work.
She also had to take anti-TB chemotherapy drugs for 13 months and says that even now, more than three years on, she has not made a full recovery.
She added: “It has had a massive effect. I used to be quite fit and was never really ill before this, but now I pick up every infection going and my breathing is not as good as it used to be.
“As far as I’m concerned the prison is the only place I could have caught it. If I had been aware of the symptoms, then it might not have been as bad.”
Fiona, who no longer works for the prison service, was awarded a five-figure out-of-court settlement after taking action against the Ministry of Justice through lawyers at Slater and Gordon.
Although the MoJ did not admit liability, Fiona, who had worked for them for almost 20 years, says she feels they ‘let her down.’
Her lawyer, Rachel Brown, a clinical negligence specialist from Slater and Gordon, added: “Fiona has been left with lasting health problems as a result of having TB and it has also affected her career.
“If she had recognised the symptoms and been diagnosed earlier, she believes the effects would have been a lot less damaging and so she is keen to raise awareness and stop this happening to anyone else.”
For more information about the disease go to tbalert.org