Health & Fitness

Davis High student diagnosed with TB. School determining if others exposed

Davis High students and staff possibly exposed to tuberculosis will undergo tests after school officials learned one of its pupils was diagnosed with the active form of the bacterial infection.

The student no longer poses a risk of exposure to other students or staff at the school, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency said Tuesday.

“We will look at classrooms, the bus, sports teams and any places of possible contact,” said Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, the county public health officer. “We estimate fewer than 200 people were exposed.”

Public health only will be testing students and school staff who had significant exposure to the student, who is receiving medical therapy, which generally includes antibiotics to kill the TB bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

“We’re planning on testing next week, on Tuesday through Friday,” said Vaishampayan, “Public health, along with Modesto City School nurses, will be performing the testing on campus, free of charge.”

Monday is a teacher-only day. Consent forms for testing were sent home with the students.

In the past few years, about 15 cases of active TB occur every year in Stanislaus County. Most cases are in people older than 65 and the majority are born outside of the United States. The California Department of Public Health estimates that more than 23,000 people in Stanislaus County have infection with the TB germ but aren’t sick, called latent TB.

The testing next week will be done with PPD skin testing for those born in the United States. Blood tests will be used for those born outside of the country because they may have positive skin tests due to other exposures to tuberculosis.

Information letters were sent to parents of all students at the school. The information was translated into eight languages for the diverse population at Davis.

The typical symptoms of active TB include fever, chills, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and cough. With TB infection in the lungs the cough usually lasts longer than three weeks. Coughing up blood may also happen. TB bacteria can spread throughout the body and cause more symptoms depending on what organs are affected.

Vaishampayan said the student was having symptoms and sought care at a private physician, who diagnosed TB and promptly reported it to public health. This all occurred in less than two weeks.

No additional information is available about the student at this time, as the investigation is ongoing.

Vaishampayan said testing of everyone at the school is not warranted because people without exposure may have false positive tests.

The TB bacteria is transmitted through the air after a person with active disease coughs, talks or sings. Prolonged close contact is generally necessary for another person to get infected. Typically, this occurs among family members, close friends and possibly people within the same enclosed spaces, such as classrooms.

The TB germ most often enters into the body through the lungs. Taking medication to kill the germ can prevent someone with latent TB from developing an active case of TB. People with latent TB can be identified with the skin or blood test. They are not contagious.

People with weak immune systems, such as the very young, the elderly and those with chronic diseases are more at risk of developing active TB.

In the United States, no TB vaccine is routinely available. A TB vaccine, called BCG, is used throughout most of the developing world where TB occurs at high rates. The BCG vaccine provides protection for young children from severe TB and death, but has limited efficacy for others.

For more information, visit Public Health Tuberculosis Program at http://www.schsa.org/PublicHealth/programs/tb/ or call 209-558-7535. Additional information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/tb/

This story was produced with financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with the GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of this work.

ChrisAnna Mink is pediatrician and health reporter for The Modesto Bee. She covers children’s health in Stanislaus County and the Central Valley. Her position is funded through the financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with The GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of her work.
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