DHEC confirms 1 person with tuberculosis at Conway High School, screening students for disease

About 110 Conway High School students and staff will be tested for tuberculosis Friday after one student tested positive for the disease, according to Horry County Schools officials.

The student went to the nurse’s office last week with a fever and did not return to school Monday, Teal Harding, district spokeswoman, said. The school was informed of the infected student Monday.

“The district, working at the guidance of DHEC, immediately began a process of identifying everyone the student had class with, was on the bus with, or attended extra-curricular activities with,” Harding said.

The school also singled out any instructors or substitutes the student contacted. A little more than 110 people qualify for a TB screening, but not all will choose to be tested, Harding said.

Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that affects the lungs, kidney or spine and can be treated with antibiotics, according to the Center of Disease Control. TB germs can only be spread by someone with active symptoms, such as fever, coughing and chest pain.

An area medical facility informed the S.C. Department of Health and Safety of a possible case of tuberculosis on Monday, according to Jim Beasley, with DHEC.

Due to federal privacy restrictions, DHEC cannot provide details about the individual’s age, sex and physical condition, he said.

Medical staff school met with the student Monday for an extensive Q&A to determine how and where any other people might have been exposed. The individual is in isolation to receive treatment and prevent the spread of the disease, Beasley said.

“DHEC is working closely with school officials to determine where others could potentially have been exposed and to test those individuals as soon as possible,” Beasley said.

Horry County Schools informed students and staff of the situation Tuesday around 6 p.m., and staff and parents of students potentially affected were notified by letter of the possible exposure to tuberculosis, Beasley said.

The letters, sent home with students, include a consent form to receive a TB screening test at the school.

Screenings for tuberculosis will take place Friday and the results should be available to affected students – at no charge – Wednesday, Beasley said. Students younger than 16 must have parent permission for the screening, Harding said.

Medical professionals will also be available at Conway High on Friday to answer any medical questions students or staff have about tuberculosis, Harding said.

“Lab results from TB screening tests will determine the need for further testing or treatment,” Beasley said.

If any results come back positive, the individual will be given a chest X-ray to determine whether the person has the disease or just a germ. Not everyone infected with the germ becomes sick, according to DHEC.

The school is cleaning air ducts, filters and other air systems to ensure the disease is eliminated from the school, Harding said. Tuberculosis can be deadly if left untreated, but Harding said parents should feel safe sending their children to school.

“There’s probably no more risk associated with the school than there is a the movies, or at a big concert,” she said. “You never really know who has what.”

DHEC is working with the district to stem a possible outbreak, said Linda Johnson, DHEC Pee Dee Health Director.

“We will continue to work closely with the school district to identify any exposures to this disease,” Johnson said. “Together, we want to ensure the students, staff, and their families receive the care and information they need to protect their health.”

The student will not be allowed to return to school unless authorized by DHEC, Harding said.

There were four confirmed cases of tuberculosis in Horry County last year, according to DHEC records. There were 79 cases statewide, compared to 153 cases in 2010.

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