Public Health – Seattle & King County is following up on the report of an Aki Kurose Middle School community member who was diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB). Public Health is working with the middle school and Seattle Public Schools officials to define the extent of any potential TB exposures, conduct evaluations for those exposed, and provide guidance and information to the Aki Kurose Middle School community.
TB is not easy to spread
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 typically 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.
Details on the evaluation
As a precaution, approximately 120 people from the school community are recommended to be evaluated for TB, based on the amount of time they were exposed to the person with TB in indoor spaces. Seattle Public Schools will be directly contacting these individuals who need TB evaluation. If you are not contacted, you are not considered to be exposed, and no action is required.
People at Aki Kurose Middle School who are identified to be infected with latent TB infection may be recommended for treatment, so that they do not develop the disease in the future. Latent TB infection can be treated in 3-4 months.
Active TB versus latent TB infection
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 5% of those who acquire latent TB infection develop active TB within two years and an additional 5% of them develop active TB over the rest of their lifetime. Therefore, we will be conducting TB evaluation in the Aki Kurose Middle School community in a timely manner to identify those who are recently infected with TB and offer preventive treatment to stop the spread of TB.
The person at Aki Kurose Middle School with active TB disease is receiving treatment, and is currently not a risk for infecting others. Most cases of active TB are readily treatable with antibiotics that are commonly available; treatment typically takes six to nine months.
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, 92 new cases of TB disease were reported in 2020. On average, about 2 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.
Originally published on March 9, 2022.