Durham County

Northern High student tests positive for tuberculosis

The tuberculosis bacteria is spread through the air.
The tuberculosis bacteria is spread through the air. Centers for Disease Controls

A second case of tuberculosis has been diagnosed in the area since Friday.

A student at Northern High School is being treated for tuberculosis, according to a press release Tuesday from the Durham County Department of Public Health.

On Friday, the UNC Chapel Hill alert system notified students there that a student tested positive for active tuberculosis (TB).

Both students are being treated at home and will remain off campus until the threat of spreading the disease is over.

In the Durham County case, parents at the school were notified of the exposure on Oct. 11 and the need for further evaluation.

“We’re grateful for the health department’s support,” Northern principal Dan Gilfort said. “We’ve worked closely with them to make sure that every student who needs a doctor’s checkup has been identified.”

The health department will be conducting TB blood tests on people who were exposed at Northern. The tests cannot distinguish between an active or latent infection but can help determine whether a chest X-ray is needed for a diagnosis. Repeat testing for up to eight weeks will be required for some of those exposed.

“We are taking the necessary actions to identify students and staff of Northern High School who may have been exposed to TB,” said Durham County medical director Arlena Seña. “We will be conducting initial evaluations and blood tests for tuberculosis at the school to make it easier on parents and students. We ask for patience as we work with Durham Public Schools on this communicable disease investigation.”

Tuberculosis is spread through the air when someone who is infected speaks, laughs, sings or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms of tuberculosis include a cough that lasts three weeks or longer, fever, night sweats and weight loss.

Exposed individuals may develop active disease, but most develop latent TB infection, which means that they are not sick and only have inactive TB germs in the body.

Durham County reported 11 cases of active tuberculosis in 2016.

More information about tuberculosis can be obtained from the Durham health department.

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6678, @JEJ_HSNews

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