Education

Here is why not everybody will be tested after tuberculosis case found at CFHS

Testing will start on Monday at Carolina Forest High School after a case of tuberculosis was confirmed earlier this week.

Officials say only a small percentage of the school community determined to be high-risk will undergo testing, and even if a person tests positive they might never show symptoms.

"It takes a long period of time for an individual, when they are exposed, to have the actual risk of infection," said Richard Ervin, state TB medical consultant with the Department of Heath and Environmental Control. "Only those individuals that were around the case we know, for long periods of time, in a relatively closed environment, who are at risk.

"You're not going to get it walking through the hallway when the individual walked in the other direction."

This week a member of the high school tested positive for the disease and the DHEC was notified. They were in the school by mid-week assessing who might have had contact with that person. Officials declined to say whether the victim was a student or educator, citing privacy concerns.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, tuberculosis is a disease that typically attacks the lungs. Symptoms include a bad cough and coughing up blood. If not treated, it can be fatal.

There are about 100 cases of tuberculosis in South Carolina a year, Ervin said. In Horry County, there are on average six cases a year. Tuberculosis is more common in underdeveloped counties, though was more frequent in America centuries ago.

An infected person might go their entire life without showing symptoms or moving into the disease stage and Ervin compared it to a person with the chicken pox virus.

Only 10 percent of infected people develop symptoms. Ervin said there are also treatment plans to help people who test positive from becoming symptomatic. A simply infected individual is not contagious. If a person knows they are infected, they can use that information in case of future health issues.

Unlike the flu, which multiplies in minutes, health professionals say that tuberculosis takes a day to grow inside a person and the disease is spread through the air.

Someone needs to be exposed to the contagious person for an extended period of time to be at a high risk for contracting tuberculosis.

DHEC leaders were in the school and talked to the victim in the case to determine who might be at risk - erring on the side of caution. On Monday, they will return to the school to conduct a blood test for a "small percentage" of the CFHS community. Dignitaries declined to provide a specific figure.

"We will address those individuals that need to be addressed quickly. Those who aren't at risk will be assured," Ervin said.

DHEC officials praised the school and the district for their efforts and said the response and testing set-up is rapid compared to other cases in the state.

That testing will take a week to analyze and health professionals will return to the school on April 11 to provide detailed results. Part of the reason for the delay is due to Carolina Forest's upcoming spring break. If there is a positive test, health professionals will contact that patient before April 11, said Linda Johnson, DHEC's regional health director for the Pee Dee region.

"We will certainty make that happen," Johnson said.

If people are not part of the school testing but are still concerned, they can contact their health professional to inquire about testing, Ervin said. There is also a DHEC CARE line at (855) 472-3432 that is in operation from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. this weekend and throughout the week if locals have questions.

  Comments