27 at Kansas high school test positive for tuberculosis
Olathe, KS — Kansas health officials said Wednesday that 27 people at Olathe Northwest High School have tested positive for the tuberculosis infection.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Johnson County Department of Health and Environment said that 300 students and staff were tested for tuberculosis.
People with TB infection are not contagious, do not feel sick and do not have TB symptoms. None of the 27 infected were exhibiting symptoms.
The Johnson County Health Department said the immune system of those infected will most likely contain the infection, and the 27 will not become contagious.
However, people with TB disease can spread the bacteria to others, feel sick and can have symptoms including fever, night sweats, cough and weight loss. A student at Olathe Northwest was infected and was the carrier. Officials don’t know when or how the student became infected.
Health officials said they began calling the 27 with positive test results on Monday and letters were mailed to the homes of those with negative test results.
“The number of individuals with TB infection does not exceed what we would anticipate in this setting,” said Lougene Marsh, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. “Of course, we had hoped we wouldn’t find any additional TB cases, but we knew this was a possibility. That’s why we took such thorough steps to test everyone who might have been in close contact with the first confirmed case of TB disease.”
Individuals with positive test results will take a chest X-ray and begin treatment with antibiotics to kill the TB bacteria to prevent the development of TB disease.
“Early identification and treatment of TB infection is the key to preventing progression to TB disease,” Marsh said. “That’s why we are working so closely with the school and KDHE to investigate this case and assure that all precautions are being taken for the safety of everyone in the school and the community.”
Blood tests will be repeated on May 5 for those contacts who were identified as exposed to TB disease during the spring semester of the school year.
This second test is necessary as it can take up to eight weeks for TB bacteria to show up positive in a TB test.
The Johnson County Health Department considers this an outbreak, not an epidemic.
Citing Spring Break, Olathe School District declined to make any district administrators available discuss the test results and what it means for the campus. Instead, the district issued the following statement:
“The Olathe School District and the Olathe Northwest High School administration continue to work hand in hand with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. JCDHE has provided great guidance and expertise in this unique situation. Both of our organizations are committed to protecting the safety and wellness of our students and staff and also in providing accurate and timely information for all of the impacted families.”