Tuberculosis reported at Durham, Lumberton schools

Posted February 11, 2020 7:47 a.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2020 5:21 p.m. EST

— Active cases of tuberculosis have been confirmed at Northern High School in Durham and Lumberton Junior High School, officials said.

Durham Public Schools officials wouldn't confirm whether the Northern High case was a student or a staff member, saying only that they learned of the case through the county health department.

It's unclear how many people might have been exposed to the infectious disease at the school.

"The communicable disease response team from the health department has come out to the school, is working on the case, following up with people who have potentially come into contact with the person who tested positive and following that closely," said Matthew Grady, lead nurse for Durham Public Schools. "I have full confidence in the team from the county health department. [They're} very well trained, very well-versed in what they do, so I’m very confident they can handle this."

Northern High also had a TB case in October 2017, when hundreds of students and staffers were tested for possible exposure.

A "very small" number of students were exposed to TB at Lumberton Junior High, according to Robeson County Schools officials. The Robeson County Health Department will send letters to students who have have been exposed, while school administrators plan to send letters to the entire school community about the stiuation.

"The vast majority of employees and students will not be contacted and do not need any testing or treatment for TB," a statement from the school read.

Superintendent Shanita Wooten said, “We are taking this health matter very seriously and are confident that the actions of school officials and the Robeson County Health Department are guarding the well-being of the students, staff and public. ... Situations such as these are a reminder that TB is still active in our state, and it’s important to test those who may be at risk for the disease."

Tuberculosis is a potentially serious infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs. The bacteria that cause it are spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.

Symptoms of active TB include coughing that lasts three or more weeks, coughing up blood, chest pain or pain with breathing or coughing, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills, loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss.

People with TB must take several types of medications for months to eradicate the infection and prevent the development of antibiotic resistance.

There is a TB vaccine, but it isn't 100 percent effective and it isn't required for students in North Carolina.

"Tuberculosis is completely curable," Grady said, adding that people should take the same precautions they would use to guard against colds and the flu, such as frequent hand washing and covering your face when you cough or sneeze.

Still, some students and parents said they are worried for their safety. Meanwhile, others said they feel appropriate precautions have been taken.

"I’m not concerned about it because whoever it is did the right thing to go to tell {health officials]," said Carlos Pascual, a junior at Northern High. "So now people can check them and all that."

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.