Tuberculosis isn’t a common childhood illness, but for one Pennsylvania middle schooler, it’s reality.
You might worry about your child picking up influenza, strep throat or a stomach bug at school, but you’re generally not concerned about him picking up tuberculosis (TB). However, parents in a Pittsburgh public school have been told their kids should probably be tested for TB because a student at the school has a confirmed case.
Officials are advising the move because the student, who attends Pittsburgh South Hills 6-8 Middle School, was recently diagnosed, and now they have to try to track down where it was picked up. That task is not an easy one, they say. “Whether it was an elderly grandparent or a parent or if they were in contact with another student that had exposure from outside the United States or another part of the country,” Dr. Jennifer Preiss, of Allegheny General Hospital, told CBS Pittsburgh.
Fortunately the infection doesn’t spread easily — you need to come into contact with microscopic droplets from an infected person, and this happens by being directly sneezed or coughed on. That being said, there is also no vaccine routinely given in the U.S. According to the Mayo Clinic, in areas where TB is more common, infants are given a TB vaccine to try to reduce the risk of a severe infection, but it’s not recommended for general in the U.S. because it’s not super effective in adults.
A TB test is easy, and in two to three days, the test can be read. If positive, TB can be treated, but it can take months before the infection is completely cleared from the body. If untreated, it can be fatal, so it’s important to diagnose and treat as early as possible. You also cannot slack off on taking the meds if you start to feel better because TB is notoriously resistant to antibiotics and can become even more so if treatment is stopped.
Health officials in Pittsburgh state that they aren’t anticipating an epidemic, but it has to be worrisome for parents of the other kids in school. Hopefully this is an isolated case and no one else tests positive.
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