About 300 students and staff from Kalamazoo Central High School can expect to undergo a skin test for tuberculosis next week. That’s because they might have been exposed to the disease by a student from Central who, Kalamazoo Public Schools confirmed today, has a case of active TB.
KPS learned about the case last Friday from a hospital treating the student, says Kalamazoo County Public Health Department Director Linda Vail.
Vail spoke at a KPS press conference Thursday afternoon. She says while the student was symptomatic and thus contagious, only those in close contact with him would have been exposed.
“I have to be directly next to somebody who coughs [or sneezes]…and inhale the droplets that come from that sneeze” to be a risk for infection, she says.
Nor does infection necessarily lead to illness, she adds. Many of those with positive skin tests have inactive TB; that means the bacteria is present in the body but not causing symptoms. Those with inactive tuberculosis cannot transmit the disease.
Anyone at Central whose skin test comes back positive next week will receive a chest x-ray to test whether the infection is active. If it is, they'll receive antibiotic treatment. The county health department pays for both the tests and the drugs.
Vail says the health department will administer a second TB skin test to all who might have been exposed in a few weeks, to make certain they haven't been infected.
"That will kind of conclude the investigation from a public health perspective," she says.
The department is also waiting on results of a culture that will show whether the sickened student has an antibiotic-resistant strain of TB. Vail says those aren't likely to be available for a few weeks.
KPS Superintendent Michael Rice says each parent whose child will have to be tested has received a phone call from the district. He says the district also mailed letters yesterday to those parents.
The sick student will not return to school until he’s no longer contagious.