TB Testing at Pine Ridge Finds 'a Few' Non-Infectious Cases
All 550 students at Pine Ridge Elementary School in Stone Mountain are getting tested for tuberculosis after one person at the school was found to have an active case of the disease.
Tests have found "a few" non-contagious cases of so-called latent tuberculosis but no more active ones at Pine Ridge Elementary School, a county health official said. All 550 students had to be tested after one person last month was found to have an active, possibly contagious case of the lung disease.
"It's a big deal in that we have an active case, not so much that we find a handful of folks that have latent TB," said Dr. Alawode Oladele, TB medical director for the DeKalb County Board of Health. DeKalb expects to have all the test results sometime in early January.
A latent infection is not a contagious case, Oladele said. Thousands of people in the county have latent infections and even without treatment, "most people live like that the rest of their life without any problems … The body locks up the TB germ in a prison cell," he said.
Because of privacy rules, public health officials can't disclose the age or gender of the person with the active infection, and they can't say if it's a student or staff member. All they can say is that person has been isolated away from the school.
The confirmed case was possibly contagious, so after checking the patient's family, the health board decided to test the entire Stone Mountain school. Most were given blood tests, but some opted to go to private providers. Some students also missed testing at school.
In the meantime, all the people with latent infections have agreed to a nine-month course of medication to prevent developing the full-blown disease.
The school sent waivers home with every child to gain permission for testing, which parents had to sign and return.
Parent Lawanda Stewart said she saw that letter but hasn't "heard anything else."
The school itself – classrooms, buses, offices – pose no risk, Oladele said, because TB is spread only by sharing air with someone with an active case and inhaling their germs. TB cannot be spread by touching the same surfaces, such as door knobs.
The Board of Health found out about the confirmed case earlier this month from a hospital. All hospitals and labs must report confirmed cases to the county and the Centers for Disease Control.
Tuberculosis generally infects the lungs, and unchecked it causes weight loss, fever, coughing up blood and eventually death.
In all of Georgia, there were 415 reports of tuberculosis in 2009, according to the CDC. That's 4.2 cases per 100,000 people.