More than 200 staff and patients who were at a Nova Scotia hospital in September are being tested for the contagious lung disease tuberculosis.

Two cases in the region have been confirmed.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) says a patient with the disease was in the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, N.S., between Sept. 22 and 25. A second person tested positive for TB recently.

Dr. Eilish Cleary, interim Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia’s eastern region, said that it can take “several weeks, even up to a couple of months for tests to become positive.”

Dr. Margaret Fraser, a doctor at the hospital where tests are taking place, says she suspects that no one knew the patient had TB.

“It’s not something that’s top of mind for most physicians when you’re seeing someone with a cough, unless they have very specific symptoms,” Dr. Fraser said.

So far, no staff at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital have been diagnosed with an “active” infection, and the hospital says they are about three-quarters of the way through testing.

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is rare in Canada -- there are about 1,600 cases per year in this country. However, Inuit Canadians are far more likely to be affected.

TB kills about 1.7 million people annually worldwide. Nearly two in three cases are in India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, and South Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It can be transmitted through the air, but “generally takes prolonged, close contact,” according to the Nova Scotia government.

Most people who carry the bacterium do not present with symptoms. Common symptoms of “active” lung infection are cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats, according to WHO.

A commonly used test for tuberculosis involves injecting a small amount of fluid into the skin in the lower part of the arm and then returning to have it checked two to three days later. TB can be treated, but it requires taking medication for six months or more.

With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore