Tuberculosis testing winding down at East St. John High School

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 5, 2007


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE- The testing for a live case of tuberculosis has recently been completed at East St John High School, after a suspected case was discovered at the school, but there still have been no confirmed live cases as of yet.

&#8220At least one individual showed signs of tuberculosis and so we initiated a contact investigation to determine whether the school population had been exposed to the disease. We took cultures from people who had possibly been exposed, and studied some bacteria material that could be tuberculosis,” said Joey Hebert, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department Health and Hospitals for Region 3, which includes LaPlace.

Superintendent Michael Coburn estimated that there might be roughly 250 tested, but that number is not confirmed.

The school system worked with the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Center for Contagious Disease Control to test students, teachers, bus drivers and others who might be at risk of exposure to the disease.

&#8220We have no official numbers on how many were tested, but expect to have a number soon,” he said.

Hebert said the final culture results should be confirmed by the beginning of next week.

&#8220We are currently awaiting the test results for possible contagious bacteria of the individual who we think was first exposed to the disease. We should receive word shortly on the status of that case to determine if further action is needed,” he said.

&#8220We generally begin an investigation when we believe a group or individual has been exposed to tuberculosis with the chance of infection and may be contagious. Some of the symptoms include, coughing up blood, night sweats, fever and loss of appetite. People who are exposed to the disease usually get it from leisure activities, work or home,” he said.

&#8220Our main concern was that someone might be coughing up active culture material and put others at risk. Tuberculosis usually starts in the lungs 85 percent of the time, and then later settles somewhere in the lymph node site where it becomes a dangerous disease,” he said.

The study of the cultures will determine if there is an active case at the school and if there is, the Department of Health and Hospitals will continue testing as needed.

&#8220It is not unusual to have a case of tuberculosis surface. It is a disease that has been around since at least Egyptian times. Tuberculosis is the number one reported pathogen in the world. Until technology is better there isn’t a vaccine for the disease, so we use preventative measures and medications,” Hebert said.

&#8220I don’t expect to have a large number of live cases, if any. However, it is a treatable disease that can strike anyone. Many celebrities like Tina Turner and Nelson Mandela have been stricken and lived with it,” he said.