Riverside County Health officials say the Indio High School student with an active case of tuberculosis is in a state of quarantine, meaning they can’t be out and about in the community so they don’t expose more people. They believe 165 students and staff at the school were exposed to the airborne illness after coming in close contact with the student.
"Tuberculosis is spread throughout he air usually when somebody coughs or sneezes they let out droplets which hang in there for sometimes several hours and they get breathed in by other people, TB is not as contagious as say the flu but it can still be very contagious and people don’t have lifelong immunity to it that’s why we’re always careful to err on the side of caution when we construct the list of people that we believe have potential exposure because it’s so hard to predict who might actually may be exposed to it who comes in contact," says Riverside County’s public health officer, Cameron Kaiser.
The illness affects the lungs but it can spread to other organs and can be deadly if not treated. Common symptoms include: persistent cough, coughing up blood, fever, chills, chest pain, weight loss, night sweats, difficulty breathing. All exposed will be tested and those who test positive will be treated with antibiotics.
"If you happen to get a positive skin test then we will go ahead to send you to an x-ray based on the x-ray if the x-ray is clean and it doesn’t look like it has anything to do with tuberculosis for most kids we’ll end up putting them on about nine months of a medication called isoniazid," says Kaiser.
As first reported by KMIR News, county health officials say the student was one of many exposed to active tuberculosis cases discovered at the same school in 2013 that triggered school wide testing. Health officials say at that time the student did not have active TB but cannot be specific on whether or not the student had the non active form. During that incident three students were diagnosed with active TB and over 40 had the latent TB or the non active form.
"But by definition they are not contagious we recommend they take treatment though because as I said about 10 percent of them will go on to develop active tuberculosis and we can never predict when that is going to occur so those people are a priority for treatment but they are not contagious at least not yet," says Kaiser.
The school district says all parents, students and staff who have been exposed have now been notified and testing will be held during a clinic at the high school on November 15, 2016.
The school district says the student is not at school and cannot come back without a medical clearance and that can from several weeks to a many months depending on how they respond to treatment. They say the student will be home schooled so he or she doesn’t fall behind.
Health officials say the number of cases at the school is not unusual. Year to date there have been three active cases of TB in Coachella Valley area schools: one at Indio High School, one at Desert Mirage High School and one at Cahuilla Elementary School. They also say, the county as a whole has fewer cases that the state and nation’s national averages.
For more information click: CDC TB