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Health officials talk to parents about TB

June 01, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

About 140 people at South Hagerstown High School were tested Wednesday for tuberculosis.

The results of those tests will be known Friday.

On Wednesday night, a group of nervous parents who gathered at the high school wanted to know if their children would get sick.

The Washington County Health Department gave a short presentation and answered questions for a group of about 25 people.

As many as 200 students and some staff members might have been exposed to tuberculosis through one person who was diagnosed with the disease - which can cause coughing, fever, chest pain and weight loss.

Stella Mandley, a mother of two South High students, said hearing that her girls might have been in contact with tuberculosis made her feel uneasy. Her daughters were not included in the group of 189 people scheduled to be tested for the disease Wednesday.

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Mandley said she was at the meeting to make sure nothing was being overlooked by health department officials.

"It makes me a little nervous," Mandley said. "We don't want our kids to be sick."

Ed Grove of Hagerstown attended the meeting with his granddaughter, Ashley Grove, a South High sophomore. Ashley received a letter in the mail stating that she should be tested for tuberculosis.

Like other students who received a similar letter, Ashley said she was scared that she might have tuberculosis.

"Everyone is talking about it," she said. "They don't know who has it or if they're going to get it."

Ashley said she was not tested Wednesday, but she expects she will be tested Friday.

"It's very scary," Ed Grove said.

Bob Harr, president of South High's PTA, said his daughter, a freshman, was not recommended for testing.

He was concerned that because his daughter is active at the school and has many friends, she might have been in contact with the person who has tuberculosis. Like many at Wednesday's meeting, he wanted to be sure that health officials weren't overlooking a way the disease could have been transmitted.

Harr said he was relieved when Dr. Mark Jameson, deputy health officer with the health department, said tuberculosis could not be transmitted that way.

"Tuberculosis really is not spread through casual contact," Jameson said.

Mandley said she felt better after the meeting, knowing that health officials had researched exactly who might have been infected.

"We do go back and evaluate the case," Jameson said. "We've gone back in time to make sure we don't miss someone."

Those who do not test positive for tuberculosis will be recommended to take another test in eight to 10 weeks, he said.

"I think every step is being taken, and it's under control," Harr said.

Jameson said those who test positive for tuberculosis most likely will be treated with antibiotics, which typically are taken for nine months.

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