The tuberculosis (TB) outbreak at Ninety Six Primary School and throughout the close-knit community is heartbreaking.
And while parents, family members, community members and children have a right to be angry and upset with how officials handled much of the fallout, it's important everybody act with maturity and responsibility.
There is, in fact, a problem. There should not, however, be panic.
Here's what we know: A Ninety Six employee tested positive with a contagious version of TB. That employee, based on reports from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), has been uncooperative. As such, far too many children were exposed to the TB germ.
According to the most recent data released by DHEC, 55 students and 19 non-students had positive TB skin tests. Of those, 12 (2 non-students and 10 students) had abnormal chest X-ray readings, meaning they have the actual TB disease.
Additionally, 25 more received positive TB skin test results since March 8, and one person had an abnormal chest X-ray reading.
Disturbing numbers, indeed. And our hearts and prayers extend to every family effected.
It's worth noting a positive skin test does not mean a person has the TB disease or is contagious. Also, according to health officials, children who contracted the TB disease are not contagious.
Where we take issue is in the unnecessary publicity stunts and dramatic displays when children's health should be a paramount objective.
Lawsuits have been filed against DHEC and the Ninety Six school district. And, that's fine. Perhaps the only way we'll uncover complete details on how communication broke down between the two groups is through legal means.But the legal system isn't like sparklers. There is a purpose to legal action, and it shouldn't be used to garner attention. But that's what happened last week when a temporary restraining order was issued forcing DHEC to open the Greenwood Public Health Office on Saturday and Sunday.
A lawyer, representing a child afflicted with TB, wanted the health office forced open on Saturdays and Sundays for treatment. The problem: The medication the child is on does not call for treatment on Saturdays and Sundays. A simple call to a doctor would have confirmed this. Nonetheless, the lawyer moved forward with the TRO and the health office was open Saturday and will be open today from 11 a.m.-noon.
Last week, the office was open Saturday and Sunday. The child represented in the suit, however, did not visit the health office. The plaintiff in the case said she couldn't bring her child to the health office Saturday because of work, declined to accept a home visit and did not keep an 11:15 a.m. appointment Sunday.
So, why was the TRO so important? It was a publicity stunt.
"The TRO was based on a frivolous and unsupported complaint with no basis in law or fact and, as a result, was ... improperly granted," DHEC's response to the TRO reads.
Along with unnecessary TROs, some vocally called for resignations of the school district's superintendent and board members. Maybe, they should resign. Not until the full picture is revealed - something a lawsuit or other means will do - will we know for sure.
The tuberculosis case is serious and heartbreaking, no doubt. And we understand the anger rising from a community that truly cares for its children.
But if children are the main focus, we must be careful, cautious and responsible in how we treat them. The TB outbreak is tragic, but it is not reason for unsubstantiated claims, scare tactics and publicity stunts. It's more important than that.