The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is monitoring a Gig Harbor High School student who has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, an infectious lung disease.
The student is not in class and will not return to school until there is no public health concern, the department said.
The health department is working with the Peninsula School District to ensure that students and staff who may have been exposed receive testing and treatment, if needed.
Although the risk of infection to students and staff is low, the health department has recommended a TB screening test for 103 Gig Harbor High students and four staff members. Department spokeswoman Edie Jeffers said those students and staff were chosen because they share a class with the affected student.
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15-25Approximate number of TB cases reported annually in Pierce County
For privacy reasons, she could not talk about how the student became infected, or even identify the student by gender.
Those who need testing have already been notified and should receive the free screening, which will be offered at school next week. Health Department nurses will use a tiny needle on the inside of each patient’s left forearm to inject a very small amount of test liquid (not TB bacteria) under the skin. Nurses will read the test, looking for a reaction (a raised area) that can appear anywhere from 48 to 72 hours after the injection.
Others who wish to be tested should contact their health care provider.
Kathy Weymiller, director of community outreach for the Peninsula School District, said she could not talk about this specific student, but she did say that when students are out of school for an extended time for health reasons, the district offers services to the student at home.
“We look forward to having this student back in school,” she said.
Over 9,000Number of TB cases reported in 2014 in the U.S.
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria and can be cured with a lengthy course of antibiotics. There are two stages of the disease. A person with a latent TB infection is not sick and can’t infect other people. But latent infections can cause a person to develop active TB.
About one-third of the world's population has latent TB, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). People who have been infected by TB bacteria but are not yet ill with the disease
cannot transmit the disease.
A person with active TB in the lungs can spread the disease when he or she coughs, sneezes, shouts, laughs or sings. The disease is not spread by sharing clothing, eating utensils, kissing, hugging or sexual activity.
Those most at risk are people who live with someone with active TB.
When someone in the community contracts TB, health care providers are obligated to report it to the local health department, which monitors communicable diseases. Jeffers said about 15 to 25 TB cases are reported annually in Pierce County. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 9,000 TB cases (a rate of 2.96 cases per 100,000 persons) were reported in the United States in 2014.
TB is particularly dangerous for people with HIV infections.
Globally, it is a top infectious disease killer. In 2014, 9.6 million people around the world fell ill with TB and 1.5 million died from the disease, according to WHO.
For more information, visit www.tpchd.org/TB or call 253-798-6410.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will hold a public meeting to answer questions about tuberculosis infection at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Gig Harbor High School.