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Four test positive for tuberculosis

June 10, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

HAGERSTOWN

Four people at South Hagerstown High School have tested positive for tuberculosis, but a health department official said that all four previously have tested positive for the disease and that early indications show no transmissions occurred as a result of contact at the school.

Altogether, 158 people were tested for tuberculosis, said Rod MacRae, public information officer for the Washington County Health Department.

MacRae said he did not know whether the four people who tested positive were students or staff members, but he tried to allay any fears.

"The positive people all had a history of positive tests in the past," MacRae said. "Once you test positive in the past, you'll always test positive."

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Testing happened after one person at the school was diagnosed with the disease, which can cause coughing, fever, chest pain and weight loss.

MacRae would not say whether the person who initially tested positive was a student or staff member, saying such a disclosure is "not really germane," and would violate confidentiality policies.

The four people who tested positive are expected next week to be evaluated further, which entails undergoing a clinical examination and having an X-ray done.

The X-ray will show whether each person who tested positive has an active case of tuberculosis or a latent infection. A person with a latent infection will not show any symptoms, does not feel sick and cannot spread TB to other people. However, people with latent infections usually still will test positive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A person with an active infection - such as the initial person at the school who tested positive - will show symptoms and can pass the disease to others, according to the CDC.

Of those at the school who tested negative, 111 are being asked to be retested in late summer or early fall. MacRae said he did not know what criteria was used to determine who should be retested.

Eight people from the school who have been out of town or otherwise unavailable still remain to be tested, MacRae said.

Health officials have not determined how the initial person with the disease contracted it, but MacRae said that person was removed from the school.

The Health Department typically has three or four cases of tuberculosis per year, MacRae said.

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