Over the past three months, two people at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines have been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB). The first person was found with infectious TB in early January, the second in late March. Both individuals are being treated to ensure a full recovery.
At this time, investigation by health officials has found no evidence that TB was acquired at school. Both people have other risk factors for TB that are unrelated to the school environment. However, out of an abundance of caution, public health officials are recommending that all 1700 students and staff at Mount Rainier High School get TB tests.
“We have not found a link that suggests the infection was passed at the school. But we are examining every possibility, and that’s why we’re recommending TB testing for all students and staff at this time,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Interim Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.
“TB is not particularly infectious under typical circumstances. It is different from a cold or the flu, for example, which is easily spread from person to person,” said Dr. Masa Narita, TB Control Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “But tuberculosis is a very serious disease. It is also treatable with antibiotics, which is another good reason to get the free test.”
According to health officials, students and staff will be offered free TB testing upon return from spring break, the week of April 13. The school community is receiving instructions on how to get their free TB test, as well as information on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of TB.
“The health and safety of our students and staff is a top priority, and we encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to be tested,” said Aimee Denver, Highline Public Schools Director of Health and Social Services.
The TB test shows whether a person has been infected with TB. Since it can take up to two months after TB exposure for an infected person’s body to react to a TB test, re-testing is planned for mid-May.
- Every week in King County, an average of two residents are diagnosed with active tuberculosis.
- 100 cases of active TB were reported in King County in 2014 (5.0 per 100,000 residents). In 2013 there were 114 cases.
- Treatment requires a combination of antibiotics over the course of six to nine months and is usually effective.
- TB disease (active TB) often leads to persistent cough, fever and weight loss. If the disease is in someone’s lungs, they can give the disease to others through coughing.
- Untreated active TB is often fatal, typically by causing lung failure.
- Currently an estimated 100,000 King County residents are infected with the bacterium that causes TB; while the microbe lies dormant it may reactivate over time (which is known as “latent TB.”)
- About a third of the world’s population is infected with latent TB, but most are unaware.
For more information
Learn more about TB at www.kingcounty.gov/health/tb