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More than 300 in Kalamazoo high school to be tested for tuberculosis

Administering a tuberculosis skin test.
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TB skin test

Health officials in Kalamazoo are trying to ease parents’ concerns over a recent case of tuberculosis. A high school student tested positive for the bacterial infection last week.

“It sounds scary, but it’s not that scary,” said Linda Vail, director of the Kalamazoo County Health Department.

“Not that many individuals are likely to even contract tuberculosis from a contact with somebody. You know, we’re not expecting a whole lot to come out of this,” Vail said. “If you’re the parent who has a child that may have been exposed to tuberculosis then you’re going to be a little more concerned. I would hope to tell you again the chances that your child having been near this other child is actually going to contract tuberculosis is very, very, very slim.”

Unlike something like the flu virus, the disease is only transmitted through direct contact with someone who’s symptomatic – coughing or sneezing for example. Many patients with TB have a latent form and exhibit no symptoms. They cannot infect others, Vail said.

Vail says officials are doing what they're supposed to do: notifying parents and students, testing those who may have been exposed, and reporting the results to the state.

TB is treatable with antibiotics. There are cases of TB every year, but Vail admits those cases usually don’t involve testing hundreds of people in a school system.

State health officials are aware of the situation and are not getting directly involved at this time. Almost 150 people in the state tested positive for TB in 2012.

Michigan Department of Community Health did get involved in a different case last month where a health care worker in Detroit contracted the disease, potentially exposing more than 500 people to it.

The 300 who will be tested Monday will also be tested again in a few weeks. Vail said none of those 300 or so people is exhibiting symptoms of TB, which include fatigue and night sweats early on. As the disease progresses, symptoms can include weight loss and coughing.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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