Public Health – Seattle & King County is following up on a person at Renton High School
who was diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB). Public Health is working with Renton School District officials to define the extent of any potential TB exposures, conduct screenings for those exposed, and provide guidance and information to Renton High School community members.
TB is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that are passed from person to person through the air. TB is not easily spread; it’s much harder to spread than the cold or flu. It takes repeated and prolonged exposure in a confined indoor space to become infected with TB. Even in households with a contagious TB case, only about 1-in-3 close household contacts become infected.
More details on the evaluation
As a precaution, approximately 130 people from the school community are recommended to be screened for TB, based on the amount of time they were exposed to the person with TB. A screening will be offered on Thursday, November 3rd at the school to determine if anyone has symptoms of active TB, as well as conducting a blood test to determine if they are infected with TB, but without symptoms (also called latent TB).
Treatment for TB
The person with active TB disease is currently receiving treatment, and is not currently a risk for infecting others. Most cases of TB are readily treatable with antibiotics that are commonly available. To become cured, a patient must complete the entire treatment, even after they are no longer infectious. If the treatment is interrupted before the bacteria are completely eliminated, TB can develop drug-resistance and become much harder to treat.
People at Renton High School who are identified through the blood test to be infected with latent TB may be recommended for treatment, so that they do not develop the disease in the future.
Active vs. latent TB
Unlike active TB disease, people with latent (or dormant) TB infection can’t spread it to others and are not ill with the disease. Approximately 100,000 people in King County have latent TB infection. While they aren’t contagious now, they could potentially have active TB in the future and also infect others.
Approximately five percent of newly infected contacts of a person with active TB develop active TB disease themselves within two years. An additional five percent become ill at some point over the remainder of their lives. Ninety percent of people with latent TB infection never develop active TB disease.
More about TB
TB usually affects the lungs, but can affect lymph nodes, bones, joints, and other parts of the body. A person with active TB in the lungs can spread the disease by coughing or sneezing. In King County, 98 new cases of TB disease were reported in 2015. On average, two cases of TB disease are diagnosed in King County each week.
To learn more about signs, symptoms, and transmission of TB, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s TB website.
TB program protects the community
Public Health – Seattle & King County’s TB Control Program ensures that people with active TB are diagnosed and cured, and that others in contact with them who are at highest risk of infection are screened, so that infections do not spread. This essential public health work improves the community’s health and saves money by controlling the spread of TB, preventing outbreaks, and preventing the development of multi-drug resistant TB that can be very expensive to treat.
TB is a global threat, with over two million deaths every year, as people in many parts of the world do not have access to treatment and effective TB control programs like we do in the United States. Because we are at a global crossroads in King County, we need to be constantly vigilant to prevent the spread of TB.