DHEC director, specialist address TB concerns
Tuesday, June 04, 2013 10:55 AM
Out of the 463 people the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) tested for tuberculosis (TB) exposure at Ninety Six Primary School, eight children had positive chest x-rays for the disease and are being treated, public health officials said Tuesday.
Despite their positive x-rays, Dr. Richard Ervin, a DHEC infectious disease specialist, said they are not a risk to others because childhood tuberculosis is not infectious and not communicable.
"These children do not have limitations on their activities. They can go everywhere they want to. They are not a public health risk to anyone else," he said.
Ervin and DHEC director Catherine Templeton were in Greenwood on Tuesday, the day after a team of agency nurses returned to the primary school to read hundreds of skin tests administered on Friday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 58 people had positive skin tests, indicating they have the TB germ. It does not mean these people have the active disease and can spread it to others. They will, too, be treated with medication.
Anyone with a positive skin test was referred to have a chest x-ray Monday. Those results have been read, which identified the eight children with the disease.
The TB outbreak stemmed from one patient, who Templeton referred to as the "index case." She said DHEC was made aware of this patient's infection in March. This person was asked to leave the school immediately and hasn't returned, she said.
"If you have not set foot in Ninety Six Primary School this school year, you are not at risk of this TB outbreak, that is unless you have a personal relationship with the index," Templeton said.
Ervin said TB spreads through a prolonged period of time of exposure to an infectious case of tuberculosis in a small, limited environment.
"If an adult has tuberculosis that's active, the individuals that are most likely to become infected are those in the household," he said, adding coworkers or people who carpool together could also be at risk.
But Ervin said the chance of anyone catching tuberculosis from simply doing their everyday activities in the community is nil.
"TB is simply not that infectious," he said.
Templeton said DHEC's investigation is still ongoing.
FOR MORE, READ WEDNESDAY'S INDEX-JOURNAL