officials are working with the county to offer free tuberculosis testing at Mount Carmel High School in Rancho Peñasquitos on Tuesday amid concerns that students and staff may have been exposed to the airborne disease by an infected person on campus.
Of the approximately 1,900 students at Mount Carmel, about 200-230 may have been exposed and were notified by school officials about the testing, said Dr. Kathleen Moser, the director of the Tuberculosis Control Program for the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency.
County health officials sent out a notice on Monday, March 19 about the possible exposure. Since then, students have been given permission slips which they can bring to school on Tuesday to be tested for tuberculosis on Tuesday. The second part of the test will occur Thursday.
Here's how the test works:
- A small amount of protein is injected with a small needle underneath the skin of an individuals forearm.
- A small bubble forms on the skin, and is to be left open to the air for 48 hours (no bandages placed over it).
- Health workers will "read the bump" after 48 hours, observing the body's reaction for signs of infection. The size of the bump during this period, depending on several health factors related to the individual, will determine if the person has been infected.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information about reading TB tests here.
Moser said health officials don't expect students to be displaying the symptoms of TB infection at this point, as it can take many years from the time of infection for the disease to develop. Instead, they hope to find and treat with antibiotics students who have been infected but have not yet developed the disease, she said. TB can be treated with a course of drugs for six to nine months, according to the CDC.
Symptoms of tuberculosis, according to the CDC:
- A bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer.
- Pain in the chest.
- Coughing up blood or sputum.
- Weakness or fatigue.
- Weight loss.
- No appetite.
- Sweating at night.
For more information about the testing, contact PUSD spokeswoman Sharon Raffer at 858-521-2707. For more about TB, contact the county TB Control Program at 619-692-8621.