Tuberculosis outbreak spreads past Fannin

Officials told Pronews 7 that within their investigation stemming from the index case or student, those involved in original testing were boiled down to anyone who had spent more than six hours a week with the student. That is why the Department of Public Health limited their testing to those who shared a classroom with the young girl. However, officials also told Pronews 7 that there were more than the original 250 people tested, because those were limited to the investigation within Fannin.

â??So there were more than 250 because that was just doing the school piece. Then there were other people that might have been church contacts or other contacts. We identified everyone we could in regard to family, church activity, social activities and other things that this contact was involved in and pursued those contacts to then test them for TB,â?? said Dr. Roger Smalligan, the public health authority for Potter and Randall Counties.

â??We did identify some other people that did have a conversion of their skin TB test in the community and have also been offered and encouraged to take the free preventive medicine to keep them from developing active TB,â?? said Smalligan.

In April, 250 students and faculty were tested for tuberculosis at Fannin High School. That test showed 13 positive exposures to TB, which were not announced to the public, but simply remained confidential between the patients, families and doctors. Now, in a subsequent retest of that same 250 students and faculty, after an 8 week waiting period 37 people tested positive on their skin TB test.

There are still seven remaining who need to be evaluated by physicians before determining whether or not their positive TB exposure is active or latent.

The latent form of the disease simply means the germ is inside of the patientâ??s body, but is not contagious and does not make the person sick. If the person does not take the medication, there is a small chance that as the person gets older, or if their immune system is compromised in any way, the tuberculosis bacteria can wake up. By taking the prescribed medication for the 9-month time period, it decreases the chances of the germ waking up within the patientâ??s body down to one percent.

â??If you miss one dose, we are not that worried. We obviously would rather someone not miss any doses, but, missing one dose here or one dose there during the nine months is not going to make a major effect. Now if people are missing a whole month, or two, or three, then we do worry and wonder if that was effective,â?? said Smalligan.

The Department of Public Health and school announced yesterday that, after finding an unexpected number of people exposed to TB in this case, they would be expanding testing to the entire school, including faculty and staff. However, parents or family members of students, even those who tested positive for exposure, would not be tested.

â??If the student is simply exposed, they have a positive skin TB test but a healthy chest x-ray, that student is not contagious and so their family is not at risk,â?? said Casie Stoughton, assistant director of the Department of Public Health.