Nearly 12 test positive for TB

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 21, 2006

Nearly a dozen students and or employees at Lakeland High School have tested positive for turberculosis; however, officials say that does not mean they have contracted or will contract the disease.

Speaking outside the school Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Lisa McCoy, health director for the Western Tidewater Health District, said following a report last week that a person in the school had shown symptoms of the disease, nearly 200 others were advised to be tested. Those tests were conducted last Friday and this past Monday. The results were released Wednesday.

McCoy said while the skin tests performed have shown a positive result in about 5 percent of those tested, at this time, all that means is the presence of the bacteria has been detected. Further testing, interviewing those people and a chest X-ray are the next steps in health officials’ furthering their investigation.

Email newsletter signup

She also said there is no reason to believe that those with positive tests have any correlation to the subject exhibiting the symptoms of the disease. While she didn’t have exact numbers, she said that some people will show positive results even without having any exposure to the disease.

McCoy, only on the job for a few days, said officials are in the process of “widening” their investigative circles to encompass those who may have come in contact with the dozen or so with the positive results.

“We’re working with the parents and the students,” she said.

McCoy said as TB has an incubation period of up to eight weeks, they may find others in the same group who test positive later on.

When school officials first learned of a possible case of TB in the high school of 1,300 students, working with the health department, they identified those who had the highest “close contact,” and sent letters home suggesting the children be tested.

Because TB is the type of disease that is tansmitted in close quarters, McCoy said they were able to focus their initial investigation on those 200 or so people, thus eliminating the remaining 1,100. She did, however, suggest parents who might be concerned whether their child should have been in the smaller group, and was not, to go ahead and have tests done through their family doctor or other medical expert.

For that same reason that so many were not considered at risk, there is not need to test the school’s heating and airconditioning system, said Betty Rouse, regional empidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health.

She said the modern day systems “change” the air in the building about six times per hour. And, transmitting the disease through the air comes from close, personal contact, and not through ventilation systems.

“Those around the individual (who first showed the symptoms)” were of the most concern,” said Rouse.

Dr. Demetria Lindsay, of the Tidewater Health District, said the person who first showed signs of the disease is being looked at very carefully. She declined to say whether those symptoms were discovered at the school or elsewhere and school officials notified.

In furthering their investigation, McCoy said they will be making sure that the 200 or so who received the letters about possible exposure have been tested or plan to be. Those tests, according to school officials, must be done and the results presented no later than Jan. 2 or the student or adult will not be allowed inside the building.

McCoy said it might be several weeks or months before the investigation is completed.