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Friday, January 17, 2014 - Berkeley County School Officials React After TB is Confirmed at Stratford High
By Matt Bise
WCBD-TV News 2

After a case of tuberculosis was confirmed at Stratford High School the number of people to be tested now stands at 176, a number that includes both students and staff who may have come into contact with the former student.

Tuberculosis is from a bacteria that can be inhaled, some are asking why not the entire school and who makes the final call?

Tuberculosis cases are not as common as they used to be-- but they still do happen even in schools like Stratford which has a little over 17-hundred students. How do you get it? Chief of Infection Prevention at Roper Saint Francis Dr. Timothy West filled us in.

"You inhale it is how you get primary tuberculosis, you inhale it." said West.

But Dr. West also says there are some big variables when it comes to infection. It's important to determine if the infection is active then can be spread through the air. West adds if it is not active it can be carried for a long time but cannot be spread.

"Most commonly your immune defenses and host defenses take care of it but it doesn't kill it, it just stays dormant."
Berkeley County Officials have worked with DHEC to pin-point and react on the news of the student last enrolled at the school on November 25th. Director of Communications in Berkeley County Amy Kovach talked to the media Thursday morning.

"MUSC told D-HEC on Monday, D-HEC told us on Tuesday we got a positive confirmation on Wednesday and we alerted parents Wednesday afternoon --there is not much quicker you can do it."

TB is treatable and is not the serious infection it was years ago but it needs to be caught early to prevent the spread. For now Kovach says those found to have had close contact, will be administered a fast acting skin test to determine exposure.

But if the bacteria can be inhaled why not test more of the school other than just 176? Kovach said it's not the school district's call. "That is actually not up to us that is a D-HEC call and D-HEC's procedures are for only those students who have had contact, been on the bus with the child, been in class with the child or had some other close contact.

News 2 contacted DHEC the agency's response is below:

Tuberculosis is a slow-moving respiratory disease (see FAQ's at the link above). An investigation is conducted among known contacts, meaning those with which an infectious person has had prolonged, close contact, prolonged contact in areas where there is poor air circulation, etc. As explained in our materials to parents, media, etc., the germs do not live long in the open environment. So, for example, if a student has no close interaction with the suspected case, whose class schedules have them in different buildings, etc., there is no reason to test them -- or scare them and their parents needlessly. It is important to note that the person in question has not attended school since early November, and has not even been enrolled since 11.25.14. That helps narrow our contact investigation dramatically.

Kovach said on Thursday that the student had no other siblings going to feeder schools in the district. If you have question concerning your child or exposure you are asked to call DHEC at 1-800-868-0404.

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