Teacher’s TB case spurs screenings
The state Department of Health wants to screen 106 students and staff at Kahuku High and Intermediate School after a teacher was diagnosed with tuberculosis last month.
Kahuku High School will give parents more information about the tuberculosis case from 7 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at a meeting at the school. Concerned parents can also call the state Tuberculosis Control Program at 832-5731.
It's the second TB case at a public school in three months.
Health Department spokes- woman Janice Okubo said yesterday that 99 students and seven staff members were regularly near a Kahuku High teacher who tested positive for TB on Jan. 18. Skin TB tests have been scheduled for Feb. 19 at the school, she said.
It's unclear how the teacher got TB, Okubo said. Teachers and students are required to be screened for the bacterial disease, but it's possible that someone carrying latent TB can test negative but develop symptoms later, she said.
The disease, which spreads through the air and usually attacks the lungs, can be fatal if not treated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can include weakness, weight loss, fever, night sweats, coughing and chest pain. People afflicted with TB are no longer contagious once treatment begins.
But Okubo said, "At this time, there is no risk to the community."
Kahuku High and Intermediate School has more than 1,700 students. The school alerted parents and staff about the sick teacher in a letter Jan. 31, nearly two weeks after the Health Department learned about the teacher's diagnosis.
Doctors are required to notify the state about patients who contract TB, Okubo said.
She said Health Department officials had to investigate the case, which included walking through the school and looking at class rosters, to identify those who were in close contact with the teacher and contact them for testing.
Kahuku Principal Lisa DeLong said the teacher has not taught since the spring semester began early last month. The teacher is being treated, Okubo said.
In October, the Health Department sought TB tests of 164 students and staff at Roosevelt High School after a student fell ill with the disease. Three students had a positive skin reaction in preliminary tests, but chest X-rays showed that their TB was latent and could not have spread to other people, Okubo said.
The state is still hoping to examine three other Roosevelt students who are no longer in school but had been in close contact with the sick classmate, she said.
The TB case at Roosevelt was the first at a Hawaii public school in at least the past eight years. Okubo said the Health Department would study both cases to determine if anything can be done to prevent future disease scares.