Local News

Cary High students exposed to tuberculosis

Posted January 3, 2011 10:57 p.m. EST
Updated January 3, 2011 11:00 p.m. EST

— A student at Cary High School tested positive for tuberculosis, a highly contagious and sometimes deadly bacterial infection, in November.

The school sent out letters to students and parents Monday, urging anyone who may have been exposed to get tested.

Senior Aaron Caldwell shared a class with the infected student, whose name was not released.

"I'm concerned, but they said just because you're getting this letter, you don't 100 percent have it," he said.

Health officials said because the possible exposure was so recent, the disease would not be full-blown and active. That's why students who were possibly exposed are being allowed to stay in school.

"I think their risk is very minimal and I think that they should not be worried," said Sue Lynn Ledford of the Wake County Health Department.

Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that primarily affects the lungs, but it can spread to other organs. It is transmitted when an infected person coughs, talks or sneezes in close proximity to someone else, but it requires several hours of contact to be transmitted from one person to another.

"The airborne droplets are what they project into the air and you breathe them in," Ledford said.

The school planned to provide testing on Friday to look for early signs of exposure, called latent tuberculosis, which isn't contagious.

"If they tested positive with their skin test, then we would encourage them to have a chest X-ray. That would just be to determine if there was any active TB going on," Ledford said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every three people in the world has latent tuberculosis, but their immune systems are able to keep it at bay.