Health officials have issued a mandatory medical screening for students and staff at Indio High School in southern California. Around 1,800 students and faculty members were screened for tuberculosis (TB) this past Friday after dozens tested positive for possible exposure, following the diagnosis of one student. In spite of the entire school getting tested, Riverside County health official Dr. Cameron Kaiser said, "the likelihood of the illness being passed from one person to the next is remote."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tuberculosis usually occurs when the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis attacks the lungs. However, TB can affect various parts of the body such as the brain, kidneys, and spine. Symptoms of tuberculosis include coughing up blood, weight loss, persistent fever, night sweats, and chest pain. People who spend a lot of time near someone with TB are at risk of becoming infected.
While the number of reported tuberculosis cases in the U.S. has declined since 1992, TB was once considered the leading cause of death in the U.S., Reuters reported. 776 people died as a result of TB in 2000 compared to 569 deaths in 2010. This represented a 27 percent decline in tuberculosis deaths. In 2012, 9,945 tuberculosis cases were reported to the CDC.
Testing on 131 students at Indio High School began on Monday after the first student was diagnosed with TB. Out of the 131 students tested, Riverside County health officials said 45 tested positive for possible exposure to the potentially life-threatening disease. Just because a student tested positive for tuberculosis doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actively suffering from the disease rather that they require further testing. Dr. Kaiser, who ordered the mandatory screening after X-rays, revealed five students would require further testing said. "While the number of those who tested positive is higher than we would expect, that does not mean the illness has spread or will spread,” he said.
Health officials began testing all 1,800 students and faculty at Indio on Friday. Currently, there is no indication that other parts of the community or schools will require a testing clinic. “Riverside County is taking appropriate actions to reduce the public’s exposure to tuberculosis,” said supervisor John J. Benoit. “This is a serious situation that calls for medically necessary precautions to protect the health of our community.”