Another Case of Active TB Diagnosed in Hennepin County, Minnesota Schools

Another case of active tuberculosis (TB) has been diagnosed in Hennepin County, Minnesota public schools, local officials confirmed on Wednesday.

The new case has been diagnosed in “a person at Central Middle School in Eden Prairie,” KARE TV reports.

This marks the second time in two months Hennepin County Department of Health officials have confirmed that a person at a public school in the county has been diagnosed with active TB.

In January, Hennepin County Public Health Department officials reported that a person at St. Louis Park High School had been diagnosed with active TB.

The two schools are about fifteen miles apart.

In both cases, public school officials delayed releasing information to students, staff, and parents that a diagnosis of active TB had been confirmed by the Hennepin County Department of Health.

In the case of St. Louis Park High School, the delay was six weeks. In the case of Central Middle School in Eden Prairie, the delay was three to four weeks.

Parents of Central Middle School students learned of the active TB case diagnosed at the school in an email from Principal Nate Swenson. The email apparently makes no mention of the active TB case diagnosed at nearby St. Louis Park High School in January, as KARE reports:

A person at Central Middle School in Eden Prairie has been diagnosed with Tuberculosis, or TB, according to an email sent to district parents Wednesday afternoon.

The email from Principal Nate Swenson states the Hennepin County Department of Health confirmed a single case of TB and that the individual is currently receiving treatment. The email states the health department informed the district in mid-January that an individual at CMS had the airborne disease.

“Hennepin County Public Health’s recommendations are based on doing everything they can to contain TB and limit the risk of exposure to others. That includes waiting to notify others who may have had exposure until TB can be detected through a screening test,” Swenson said in the email.

“A student or staff member at St. Louis Park High School in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota, was diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB) in late November, but Hennepin County Department of Health officials and St. Louis Park Public Schools officials concealed that information from the public until the second week of January, six weeks later,” Breitbart News reported on January 14:

“Some parents received letters in the mail Thursday saying their teenagers may have been exposed to an infectious disease,” WCCO reported.

“In late November, the school district was notified by the Hennepin County Department of Health that an individual at the high school had been diagnosed with active (TB),” St. Louis Park Public Schools Superintendent Rob Metz wrote in a letter sent to parents of students dated January 11.

The letter was sent in three languages: English, Spanish, and Somali.

It was not immediately apparent if the email from Central Middle School Principal Nate Swenson was sent to parents in other languages, in addition to English.

As Breitbart News reported previously, “36 percent of all cases of active TB in Minnesota between 2012 and 2015, or 225 out of 610, were diagnosed in refugees resettled in the state by the federal government, the highest rate in any of the 46 states in which the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) obtains data.”

“Refugees account for less than one percent of the state’s population of 5.5 million, according to one estimate,” Breitbart News noted on January 14:

Minnesota leads the country by far in one category of public health: refugee TB per capita. During the four years between 2012 and 2015, 4.08 cases of refugee TB were diagnosed for every 100,000 residents of the state.

Nebraska trailed Minnesota in a very distant second, with 1.26 cases of refugee TB diagnosed for every 100,000 residents of the state during the same four-year period.

“Eighty-five percent of all TB cases diagnosed in Minnesota in 2015, or 128 out of 150, were foreign-born, 19 percent higher than the national average of 66 percent,” Breitbart reported:

Seventy-two percent of the 39,669 refugees who have been resettled by the federal government in Minnesota since 2003, or 28,831 out of 39,669, arrived from five high TB burden countries: Somalia (16,069), Burma (7,975), Ethiopia (3,399), Bhutan (1157), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (231), according to the Department of State.

One hundred and thirty-six Somali refugees and 20 Ethiopian refugees have been resettled in the city of St. Louis Park, which had a population in 2015 of 48,534.

The state of Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the United States, most of whom live in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area.

“Officials said Tuesday that after more than 100 people were tested, no new cases of tuberculosis have been found at St. Louis Park High School,” WCCO  reported earlier this week:

Superintendent Rob Metz said 100-plus staff and students were tested for potential tuberculosis last week. Those tested were identified as school community members who were most likely to have been in close contact and had potential exposure with tuberculosis at the school back in the fall.

School officials said, with the advisement from Hennepin County Public Health, that there will be follow-up protocols to make sure those who could have had exposure to tuberculosis are fully evaluated. It’s not known if additional cases of latent tuberculosis were found, because thousands of people have latent TB cases that are unknown and it does not spread.

The claim by school officials that “it’s not known if additional cases of latent tuberculosis were found” is curious, since the very first protocol in testing of patients suspected of having been exposed to TB is to administer either tuberculosis skin tests or IGRA blood tests to determine if the bacteria is present in the patient. The results of those tests, whether positive or negative, are always available within a week or so, and are most certainly known to both school officials and local health officials.

All refugees who arrive in the United States are encouraged to undergo initial medical screenings which require the administration of tests for latent TB.

The results of those tests are routinely reported by many states.

The latent TB rate among the general population of U.S.-born residents of the United States is about four percent. The latent TB rate among refugees varies from 11 percent in those arriving in Florida, to 35 percent in those arriving in Vermont.

The most recent data on latent TB rates among recently arrived refugees in Minnesota put that rate at 22 percent. Historically, however, it has been as high as 40 percent or greater.

School and county officials have adamantly refused to provide any information on the immigration status of the two individuals diagnosed with active TB in Hennepin County schools.

The role played by refugees in the economy of Minnesota figured prominently in the news recently.

Late last month, the state of Minnesota joined the state of Washington as a plaintiff in the complaint filed with a Federal District Court in Washington requesting a temporary restraining order to halt President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees from all countries and temporarily blocking the issuance of visas to residents of seven Middle Eastern countries: Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Libya.

 


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