During the last week, more than 1,500 staff and students at Indio High School in Palm Desert, California, were tested for tuberculosis (TB) because a student who attended the school from September to November was diagnosed with the disease in November. Roughly 1,400 students and faculty were tested on Friday after 130 students had been tested on Monday. Forty-five students showed they had been exposed to TB, but X-rays and other tests will show if the virus is in an active state. Five students whose X-rays showed a possibly active state were sent home Thursday. Some students and staff had their own health providers test them. Before anyone can return to the school in January, proof must be offered of their health.
Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer, stated, “This is just the most recent step in the standard, medically accepted process for handling potential exposures. We have required testing for everyone at the school as a precaution, even though the chance of the illness being passed from one person to another is remote.”
Officials are not concerned about the disease spreading to families, other schools, or nearby communities. Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit told the Desert Sun, “We have seen these things happen in other parts of the state and the world. We know how to treat them, and how to cure this disease. And not everyone who tests positive is going to have a serious bout with this disease.”
Tuberculosis is contagious, and attacks the lungs, leaving the sufferer exhausted, with attendant weight loss, fever and night sweats. But in order to contract it, someone needs to be around a carrier with the active virus for an extended time. Treatment for tuberculosis can entail taking medication for as long as nine months.
Noemi Munoz, whose son showed signs of exposure, was frustrated, saying, “I feel like it should have been done before Thanksgiving break, when we were all first notified. I think that would have contained it a little bit better.”