Utah high school student has tuberculosis, testing efforts underway
CACHE COUNTY, Utah — A Utah high school student has been identified with tuberculosis and other students with prolonged contact will be tested.
“We had some contact tracers reach out to those that were considered close or prolonged contact with the index case,” Estee Hunt, public information officer for the Bear River Health Department said. “We spoke with the parents or guardians of those individuals and were able to let them know that we would provide testing for them, and it was done today at the high school.”
Cache County School District and Bear River Health Department released a joint statement that a student at Mountain Crest High School had an active TB case. TB is a disease that is caused by a bacteria that usually attacks the lungs but can also attack other parts of the body.
“There’s latent TB and active TB,” Hunt said. “Someone can be a carrier for latent TB and have no symptoms and nobody would even know and they’re not contagious at all. Only when it becomes active TB is it actually considered contagious.”
The release explained that while it was important for the Mountain Crest student body and faculty to be aware of the TB case, only a few individuals would have had close contact, putting them at risk.
“TB is spread through close and prolonged contact with an individual with infectious, active TB disease,” Dr. Parfulla Garg, Medical Director of the Bear River Health Department said. “TB is spread through the air from one person to another, but it is not spread by shaking someone’s hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes, or kissing. Despite the fact that active TB only develops approximately 5-10% of the time in an exposed individual, testing of exposed individuals is highly recommended in order to prevent the spread of the disease. TB is a serious disease, and proactive testing is necessary to help prevent further spread and avoid severe complications.”
The school and district have been working closely with Bear River Health Department to determine staff or students that may have had prolonged contact with the student.
“COVID was, we knew six feet,” Hunt said. “That was what everyone said. If you were within six feet, that was considered close contact. With tuberculosis, it’s not spread nearly as easily as COVID. It’s defined as, basically, a prolonged contact of eight hours with this individual in a classroom for eight hours within that week.”
Complimentary testing will be available for anyone the health department has identified as being at risk. Students or staff with weaker immune systems are also encouraged to test and will also be offered complimentary testing.
The release states, “The Bear River Health Department will begin contacting and testing affected students and faculty at the school on Monday, March 13th, and Tuesday, March 14th. The health department will work with individuals based on their exposure to determine if follow-up testing (8-10 weeks) is necessary. Individuals who are not determined to be at-risk and would like testing should contact their healthcare provider or come to the South Logan Office of the Bear River Health Department, located at 635 South 100 East, Logan, UT. Please visit brhd.org for more information or if you can’t find the answers to your questions online call the tuberculosis (TB) hotline at (435)
The signs and symptoms of active TB disease are prolonged cough, fevers, chills, night sweats, weight loss, loss of appetite, or chest pain. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider or seek medical care.
“If you’re concerned there’s no reason you shouldn’t seek testing,” Hunt said.
She said the student will not return to school as long as they are contagious and symptomatic.
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