Following a reported case of tuberculosis at a high school, further testing has revealed 27 additional positive TB tests.
Last week, around 300 students and staff were tested for TB after the report surfaced that there was a case at the school, and those results have now come in and started getting mailed out. Public health experts say this is not an unusual finding, but it still has to be concerning for parents of kids at the school.
Lougene Marsh, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, said, “Of course, we had hoped we wouldn’t find any additional TB cases, but we knew this was a possibility. That’s why we took such thorough steps to test everyone who might have been in close contact with the first confirmed case of TB disease.”
Those who were exposed to the initial case will need to continue to be tested because, as a slow-growing organism, evidence of TB infection can take up to eight weeks to show up in tests. Those who are infected with TB but have no symptoms (this is known as latent TB) cannot spread the disease — only those with active TB can.
According to the CDC, TB is airborne and is spread through the air from person to person. This means that bacteria enters the air when an infected person speaks, coughs, sneezes or sings. TB is not spread by kissing, sharing cups or utensils, shaking hands with someone or touching the bedding of an infected person.
It’s awesome that the school is working with public health officials to identify students and staff who may be infected. Knowing that you have a latent TB infection means you can take steps to hopefully prevent it from becoming an active TB infection. It can switch from latent infection to active within a few days, but it can also happen years down the road, so it’s important to identify those most at risk as soon as possible.
Long gone are the days of infected folks being shuffled off to sanatoriums. Still, without treatment, active TB can be fatal, so it’s crucial to begin treatment as soon as symptoms begin.