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Second TB test sought for students, staff

September 06, 2006|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

More than half of the students and staff at South Hagerstown High School who were tested for tuberculosis in June are being asked to be tested again for the disease.

In May, Washington County Health Department officials said one person was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and as many as 200 students and some staff members might have been exposed. Soon after testing 158 of those who could have been affected, officials said four people at the high school tested positive for tuberculosis.

Officials said then that all four had previously tested positive for tuberculosis and were infected before their association with South High.

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None of those people had the disease form of tuberculosis, which is contagious and causes symptoms like persistent fever, cough and weight loss, officials said. They did have the infection, or silent tuberculosis, which is not contagious and does not cause symptoms.

After being exposed to tuberculosis, the infection can take up to two months to be detected by a skin test, said Dr. Mark Jameson, the health department's deputy health officer for medical services.

"For this reason, a second TB skin test is recommended for persons whose exposure occurred within two months of their TB test," he said. "If an exposure occurred more than two months before the TB skin test, a second TB skin test is not needed."

Health department officials will repeat the skin tests given in June to those students, staff and teachers who were tested at the end of the school year and whose first test was done less than two months after their exposure.

These 92 people who have been recommended for a second test will have two opportunities. The first test will be Friday, with the reading on Monday. A second skin testing session with be Sept. 15, with the reading Sept. 18.

"After analyzing all the test results, a final assessment will be made whether TB may have been spread at (South Hagerstown High School) and if additional students, staff and teachers should be tested," Jameson said.

Health Department spokesman Rod MacRae said it is not uncommon to retest people. If no infection or disease is detected in those being tested again, he said that would be sufficient for the department to consider the investigation closed.

MacRae said officials did not expect that any of the 92 people they want to retest would be unavailable for their second test after taking their first during the previous school year. Graduating seniors, teacher retirements and other circumstances were considered, he said, and officials believe that all of those who should be tested will be, he said.

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