1,900 Fairfax Co. Students, Faculty to Be Tested for TB

Five testing times set up for those notified

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Fairfax County Health Department is recommending testing for tuberculosis for everyone at one county high school following limited testing for the disease back in June. Northern Virginia Bureau reporter David Culver has the story. (Published Monday, Jul 22, 2013)

    The Fairfax County Health Department is recommending testing for tuberculosis for everyone at one county high school following limited testing for the disease back in June.

    Five testing dates have been scheduled for all 2012-2013 students, faculty, and support staff members at Robert E. Lee High School.

    More than 400 people were tested in June after being in contact with a person carrying the disease. Two cases of TB were confirmed at the high school that month.

    A third case, discovered in December 2012, was reopened due to the new cases following a smaller investigation when it was first detected, according to officials.

    The department says testing for the entire school is being done out of an abundance of caution to determine if anyone has a latent version of the illness. No active strain is spreading, they said.

    In June, Fairfax County Health Director Gloria Addo-Ayensu said those requiring testing were identified as having 24 hours or more of contact with the three infected people.

    But some parents who didn't hear from the Health Department in June took their children for tests anyway.

    "You can't just tell me unequivocally that my son wasn't potentially exposed," said Rich Schoske, the father of a boy at the school. "Give me the TB test if I'm asking for it. Don't push me down to my health-care provider and/or the health department."

    On July 19, the Health Department mailed letters to the additional 1,900 students, staff and faculty members, notifying them of the expanded testing. They're also making phone calls.

    In addition, 20 other peopler were identified as meeting the department's exposure criteria, which is based on spending time in places where the initial TB transmission may have occurred.

    The new rounds of testing will be held at the high school on the following days:

    • Aug. 3, 8 a.m. to noon
    • Aug. 3, noon to 6 p.m.
    • Aug. 5, 8 a.m. to noon
    • Aug 6, 8 a.m. to noon
    • Aug. 10, 8 a.m.to noon

    School activities will continue during the testing, the Health Department said Monday.

    "As much as we can do before school starts, that's what we would prefer," Addo-Ayensu said.

    TB is spread through the air and can attack any part of the body, including lungs, kidneys, the spine and brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it is not easily spread, according to health department officials.

    Skin and blood tests are usually used to determine whether a person is infected with TB. Tests will be given at the school starting Friday morning.

    TB symptoms include a bad cough lasting for more than three weeks, weight loss, fever, chills, weakness, coughing up blood and chest pain. If not treated correctly, the disease can be deadly.

    Fairfax County performs about 90 TB investigations each year.

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