Sacramento County health officials are testing dozens of Grant High School students for active tuberculosis after a classmate was diagnosed with the infectious disease.
Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs and can be fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is spread through the air when someone with the disease sneezes, coughs, speaks or sings.
Twin Rivers Unified has alerted the parents of students who may have been exposed.
“We do not anticipate that there is anyone else who has contracted the disease,” said Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye. “The risk of contraction is low.”
Kasirye said that the risk of infection depends on a number of factors, including proximity and duration of exposure to an ill person, as well as that person’s level of infectiousness.
Symptoms of tuberculosis include a cough that lasts more than three weeks, chest pain, fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss, Kasirye said. A person who has had TB a long time might also cough up blood. People with symptoms are urged to see a doctor.
Not everyone infected with TB becomes sick. Some people have latent tuberculosis, which has no symptoms and is not infectious. If TB bacteria become active, however, the body is unable to stop them from growing and the patient becomes ill.
About 80 cases of tuberculosis are reported in Sacramento County every year, but the patients are usually adults, Kasirye said. Department officials decided to alert the public about this case because the patient was a student who shared classrooms with dozens of other teenagers. “We want parents to know we are aware of what is going on,” she said.
The health department is offering the test to all students who shared classes with the infected teenager.
Because of the low risk, the test – a needle prick just under the skin – is not mandatory. No students will be excluded from school if they don’t take it, Kasirye said.
If parents have concerns or questions, they may call Grant Union High School at (916) 566-3450, ext. 65063.
For more information about tuberculosis, call the county health department at (916) 875-5881.
Call The Bee’s Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert.