Second TB case confirmed at GF school; more testedA second case of tuberculosis at Phoenix Elementary School was confirmed Tuesday as staff and students lined the school’s hallway to get tested. The child is a family member of the first Phoenix student diagnosed with tuberculosis last week. Another child, who shares the same household, has also been diagnosed with the potentially lethal infection, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
A second case of tuberculosis at Phoenix Elementary School was confirmed Tuesday as staff and students lined the school’s hallway to get tested.
The child is a family member of the first Phoenix student diagnosed with tuberculosis last week. Another child, who shares the same household, has also been diagnosed with the potentially lethal infection, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
All three children are under the age of 10 and health officials cannot say if the children are siblings or not.
The most recent student who contracted TB did not did receive it from the school, and the third child does not attend school. The total number of active cases since the October outbreak has now risen to 10.
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial infection that traditionally attacks the lungs but can spread to other parts of the body, including the kidneys and brain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include coughing, unexplained weight loss and night sweats.
Nearly 40 students and staff at Phoenix Elementary School were tested Tuesday. Terri Keehr, Grand Forks Public Health TB program coordinator, was one of several nurses who administered the shot — a quick injection of a purified protein derivative that causes the skin to form a small bubble.
Health officials wait 48 to 72 hours to check the site for swelling or the formation of a hard edge around the spot, the first indication of a positive test.
Keehr said that “anything larger than 10 millimeters” in circumference indicates infection. Further testing such as chest X-rays can determine if the person has an active or latent infection, which means they’re not infectious and can’t spread it to others. Non-infected people may see a little redness or bruising at the site of the shot, she said.
Medical testing can cause anyone to become nervous. Children were mostly anxious about the needles, but once they “got their stickers and Band-Aids, they were fine,” said Debbie Swanson, nursing supervisor at Grand Forks Public Health.
“We needed to relieve fears and assure them that this is an important thing to do to be healthy,” she said.
Although TB can be spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, traits similar to the common cold and flu, it can’t be transmitted by sharing drinking glasses or utensils. Also, TB requires frequent contact to spread, said Swanson.
“Colds and the flu spread more significantly in a school setting,” she said.
Children in particular don’t typically spread TB because their lung capacity is not that strong when they cough, said Swanson.
The school plans to respond to the outbreak by ramping up staff and student hygiene practices. Administrators also want parents and children to be more educated about tuberculosis, which is low among the general population because of the disease’s rarity, said Principal Kevin Ohnstad.
“If parents ask me, I say spend a little bit of time teaching your kids, and we’ll do the same,” he said. “When we get into specific questions, I feel a lot more comfortable with public health or a physician answering those.”
Good hygiene practices are already being practiced by students, such as use of hand sanitizer and proper coughing techniques, he said.
“The teachers are really good about educating the kids, and at an elementary school, it’s already a part of their day,” he said.
The total number of people exposed to tuberculosis at Phoenix Elementary is still not known. Parents of children who share the same classroom as the most recent TB case were contacted Tuesday. Classmates of the second student will be tested today.
Health officials will review results from Tuesday’s testing on Thursday.