TB Tests for 1,394 Students, Faculty at Indio High: ‘Likelihood of Illness Spreading Low’

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INDIO – A total of 1,394 students and faculty were tested for tuberculosis Friday at Indio High School, Riverside County health officials said.

County health officials remain confident “the likelihood of the illness spreading is still low,” spokesman Jose Arballo Jr. said.

The testing Friday was scheduled after one student at Indio High School was diagnosed with active tuberculosis and subsequent screening this week at the school showed 45 students tested positive for possible exposure to the illness.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer, said health officials will be at the school Monday to read the results of Friday’s skin tests, Arballo said.

“This is just the most recent step in the standard, medically accepted process for handling potential exposures,” Kaiser said. “We have required testing for everyone at the school as a precaution, even though the chance of the illness being passed from one person to another is remote.”

On Friday, health officials tested 1,319 students and 75 staff, Arballo said.

“On Monday, 131 students had been tested after a student recently was diagnosed with active tuberculosis,” Arballo said. “Forty-five students tested positive for possible exposure but the positive test result does not mean they have active tuberculosis. A positive result on a skin test requires follow-up testing, including X-rays.”

Friday’s screening was scheduled after follow-up X-rays on students tested earlier this week identified five students who needed further examination, Arballo said.

An earlier estimate that up to 1,800 people would be tested Friday included those who had been tested Monday, Arballo said.

“The number of people tested on Friday was not unexpected for various reasons, including that it was the last day of school before the upcoming holidays and that some students and staff already have been tested by their own health-care providers,” Arballo said.

School officials have ordered that all students and staff members will be required to show proof that they have been tested, as well as showing the results of those tests, before returning to the school, according to the Riverside County Department of Public Health.

“Riverside County’s handling of this public health concern was thorough, appropriate and immediate, and I appreciate the good work by everyone involved,” Supervisor John J. Benoit said. “We’re also thankful for the assistance from Indio High School and the Desert Sands Unified School District in ensuring today’s testing went smoothly.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that usually attack the lungs, but it can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. It is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.

It is not spread by shaking someone’s hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes or kissing.

Some of the symptoms include: Coughing with sputum for more than three to four weeks, coughing up blood, pain in the chest when breathing, unexplained loss of appetite or weight loss and fever with night sweats for more than three weeks.

For more info about tuberculosis visit http://www.rivco-diseasecontrol.org/Programs/TuberculosisControl.aspx.