Updated: Health officials continue addressing TB case at high school

SBHS

Health department and school officials are continuing to address a case of tuberculosis in the aftermath of the revelation going public this week.
The county health department Thursday announced a case of T.B. reported at San Benito High School and then held an informational meeting for parents that night. A medical provider informed the health department of the tuberculosis case four weeks ago. Since then, officials with the school and local health department have been following the state health department’s lead in following up with testing – of those people potentially exposed – and preventing any further spreading.  
“We’re trying to keep everything on the up and up,” said spokeswoman Samela Perez with the county health department.
According to the state public health department, tuberculosis is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Those bacteria attack the lungs but can affect other parts of the body such as the kidneys, spine or brain, according to a state fact sheet. If not treated properly, it can be fatal, according to the state. It is spread through the air from one person to another, often due to coughing or sneezing.
In addressing the case – school and health officials declined to specify if it was a student or staff member – the school and local health department have conducted 204 tests, said interim Superintendent Mike Robustelli.
Robustelli said the health department diagnosed a circle of people who may have been exposed.
“Obviously it’s a health department issue,” Robustelli said. “We’re supporting them and following their lead.”
The health department plans to hold more skin tests Jan. 7 as well, said Perez, who acknowledged there have been no other T.B. cases at the high school in her 17 years on the job.
According to the public health department statement:
A person associated with San Benito High School was recently reported to Public Health Services as having active tuberculosis (TB). Public Health Services is conducting an investigation to identify possible TB infection in those who may have been exposed at the school.  Public Health Services is working closely with San Benito High School to coordinate appropriate identification and TB skin testing.
The TB germ is commonly spread through the air from a person who has active TB disease in the lungs.  Through coughing, sneezing, speaking, or singing, the germs can stay in the air for some hours, particularly in small, closed environments with poor ventilation.  Only those who are in close regular contact with such a person over a prolonged time may be at risk of exposure to the germ.  With such exposure, a person may become infected; the immune system will generally control it and produce a positive TB skin test.  Such people have latent TB infection, are not sick, and cannot spread TB to others.  TB disease and infection are treatable and curable.
San Benito County regularly has from one up to three or four cases of active TB disease reported per year. California has over 2000 cases reported per year.
In line with the mission of public health to prevent disease and protect from health hazards, communicable disease investigation, such as for TB, is a regular public health activity.  Public Health Services has a scripted telephone message line for anyone with questions regarding TB exposure at (831) 637-7945.  For additional information on TB, please go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/factsheets/general/tb.htm or your medical provider may also have information.

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