Sacramento County public health officials say 64 more Grant Union High School students have been diagnosed with latent tuberculosis.
This brings the total number of students and staff with the diagnosis to 111 since February. Latent tuberculosis has no symptoms and is not infectious, but it can become active after a long period of dormancy.
“It is higher than what we expected,” said Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento County public health officer of the number. “At this time there are no plans of expanding (testing). We haven’t identified any other factors that would put any other students or teachers at a reasonable exposure to warrant testing.”
Kasirye met with parents of the students who tested positive on Tuesday and will speak to other parents at a meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the multipurpose room at the Del Paso Heights school.
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Tuberculosis is spread through the air when infected people cough, laugh, sneeze or sing. It cannot be spread through hand-shaking or touching objects such as doorknobs or railings.
Health department staff began screening students and staff at Grant Union High after a student was diagnosed with active tuberculosis, which attacks the lungs and can be fatal. Two hundred people who had direct contact with the student were initially tested. Of those, 47 tested positive for latent tuberculosis.
The high numbers of positive tests prompted county officials to ask another 500 students and teachers to be screened on May 5. They targeted those who used the rooms immediately after the infected student, as well as students in classrooms that shared a ventilation system with classrooms frequented by the student. Only 260 showed up for the second screening; 64 tested positive for latent tuberculosis.
Kasirye said she strongly encourages the 240 people who didn’t show up for the screening to be tested by their private doctor or by contacting the Division of Public Health at (916) 875-5881. Treatment with antibiotics can greatly reduce the chances that latent tuberculosis turns into active tuberculosis. After treatment only a very small percentage of people develop active tuberculosis, Kasirye said.
Active tuberculosis also can be treated successfully. The student diagnosed with active tuberculosis has since been medically cleared and has returned to school.
The testing and treatment has been funded by state and local dollars, according to public health officials.