Sacramento County health officials are asking 150 American River College students to be tested for tuberculosis after a classmate was diagnosed with the active form of the infectious disease.
The county Division of Public Health sent letters to all students and staff who shared a classroom with the student. The TB patient attended classes at the main campus, as well as a satellite campus in Natomas, according to officials.
Free screening tests have been scheduled for both locations the first week in December, and results are expected to be available by the end of that week. Family and close friends of the student also are being tested.
“Public Health is working closely with school officials to investigate and screen any potential exposures,” said Pamela Harris, Public Health division manager, in a prepared statement. “The risk of contraction for students and staff is low.”
The patient attended classes at the Natomas Center at night and did not expose students who attend the adjoining Inderkum High School campus, said Laura McCasland, spokeswoman for the health department.
The student has been isolated and is receiving care. 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 sneezes, coughs, speaks or sings.
The risk of infection depends on a number of factors, including proximity and duration of exposure.
At least four Sacramento area schools in the last two years have had active cases of tuberculosis. Franklin High School and Franklin Elementary School each had a case in March, Florin High School had a case in January and Grant High School had a case last year. County health officials tested classmates and school employees after the TB cases emerged.
Symptoms of tuberculosis include a cough that lasts more than three weeks, chest pain, fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss, said Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye in a previous interview. “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. Both inactive tuberculosis infection and active tuberculosis disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics, according to the Public Health department.
Students who have been exposed to tuberculosis will undergo additional testing – most likely chest X-rays – to determine whether they have latent or active tuberculosis.
If students have any concerns or questions, they may call American River College at 916-484-8383. For questions concerning tuberculosis, call the Sacramento County Division of Public Health at 916-875-5881.