Local News

Durham Student Diagnosed With TB; Health Officials To Test Southern H.S. Students, Teachers

Posted August 22, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— A Southern High School student was diagnosed with tuberculosis during a school sports physical. Health officials say it is unlikely that the disease spread, but they plan to test up to 300 of the student's teachers and classmates Thursday.

Tuberculosis is spread by coughing, but it generally takes hours of exposure in a small space. Symptoms include coughing up green or yellow phlegm, a low-grade fever and night sweats.

A skin test can tell health experts if you have been exposed to tuberculosis. If your skin turns red or bumpy after a few days, doctors know your body is trying to fight the disease.

"We'd take a chest x-ray, ask some medical questions, and then do preventive therapy," says Dr. Janice Stratton of theDurham Health Department.

The therapy involves taking antibiotics for nine months or longer. Letters from the school principal and the health department went home Wednesday with hundreds of students who might have been exposed.

"The infection depends on how many germs got out of his or her mouth, and how close they were to each other," Stratton says.

Most of the students who will be tested had a class with the infected student, either this school year or last spring. Health experts say most of them probably are not at risk.

"There really isn't a great risk of expectations in a casual circumstance such as passing someone in a hallway or being in the same large room with them," says health director Brian LeTourneau.

Health officials will give the tuberculosis tests between Thursday and Tuesday. They plan to have all the results by the end of next week.

Earlier this year, at least 20 people at a downtown Raleigh homeless sheltercontracted the disease.