TB Exposure Reported at LHS
By Rosario Torres
n individual at Lincoln High School was recently diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) and may have exposed a limited number of students, faculty, and staff to the disease, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) reported Dec. 15, 2011. The period of exposure was from Sept. 6, 2011 to Dec. 6, 2011.
According to HHSA, most people who are exposed to TB do not develop the disease. There were 213 cases of TB reported in San Diego in 2011. It usually takes 2 to 10 weeks after exposure to a person with TB disease for the skin test to turn positive. HHSA did not recommend testing of possible exposed Lincoln students and staff prior to Jan. 31, 2012.
The affected students, faculty, and staff who may have been exposed, have been notified by school officials and should go to their primary healthcare physician to be tested on Jan. 31, 2012. After testing, 2 people were reported being positive for TB. "These individuals could have been positive for a long time because we did not know their prior history," said Ms. Ryan, Lincoln's nurse.
If individuals do not have a primary care physician they can go to a County Public Health or TB Clinic for testing. San Diego Unified School District offered no-cost testing for affected students at our school on Jan. 31, 2012.
“I hope this doesn't interfere with students education,” said senior Health Youth Council member Jennifer Preito. "I think everyone should be tested to be on the safe side.”
TB is an infectious disease that is spread from person to person through the air. The germs are put in the air when a person with TB coughs, sneezes, laughs, or speaks. Symptoms of active TB include persistent cough, fever, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss.
According to HHSA, there is a difference between TB infection and TB disease. People with TB disease are sick from germs that are active in their bodies. They usually have one or more symptoms of TB and are often capable of infecting others with TB germs. Medicines, which can cure TB, are prescribed for people with TB disease. People with TB infection have the germ that causes TB in their bodies. They are not sick because the germ is inactive in their bodies. However, these people may develop TB disease in the future. Medicine is often prescribed for these people to prevent them from developing TB disease.
The TB exposure at Lincoln has sparked reactions within the community. Five community members have contacted Ms. Ryan to further discuss the exposure. The five community members did not have children enrolled here. Ryan stresses the importance of confidentiality and cannot share any personal information about anyone who has been exposed or the individual who was diagnosed.
Ryan visited seven classes to personally inform teachers and students that they have been exposed. She also sent out two different connect ed. phone calls for students who had been exposed and those who were not.
According to Ryan, the individual was admitted to the hospital and medicated, discharged and is able to return to school. “The medication was effective, the individual is no longer able to spread the disease,” said Ryan. “The individuals that will be tested were identified as students, teachers, and staff that were in classes with the individual.”
Ms. Taylor, an English teacher in Public Safety, advises students who may have been exposed not to be fearful and go through the steps like a common cold. “I work with a lot of students, I expect them to get sick, I’m not afraid of TB and wouldn’t treat them differently,” she said.
An anonymous source shared his story about being exposed to tuberculosis at the age of three. He had to be medicated for four years to combat the virus exposure. He never developed full blown tuberculosis because doctors detected the TB early.
“My parents didn't know how I was exposed to TB, I was often scared because I didn't know why I was taking medicine,” said the anonymous source.
According to the source, to be employed he does not get a TB skin test like everyone else. It causes him to have adverse reactions such as bruising, instead he gets a chest x-ray. He lives a normal healthy life. He shared that if he decides to get married, he feels it is important to discuss his medical history with his partner so they can know.
In school, he shared his medical problem with his close friends. “They were very supportive,” said the anonymous source. “Tuberculosis is not a social stigma, you have to stay strong. Medication will help you as long as you stay consistent to live a healthy life.”
His message to students is, “If you know a person that tested positive, be a friend and talk to the person. Tuberculosis is not something they had control over.”
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