Fresno Unified School District will test 170 Bullard High School students and a dozen staff Tuesday for possible exposure to tuberculosis after a student was diagnosed with the disease.
The district notified families of potentially affected students by telephone Friday and sent information home with the students, district spokesman Miguel Arias said. An automated telephone message also was sent to the homes. Students need a signed consent form to be tested, he said.
Another group of 100 students have been offered the skin test as a precaution, said Gail Williams, the district’s director of health services.
The dozen staff were notified individually or in small groups and a full staff meeting took place at Bullard at noon Friday to explain the possible TB exposure, Arias said.
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The Fresno County Department of Public Health learned the student had a positive skin test for TB on Sept. 29 and a diagnosis was confirmed a few days later. Health officials notified Fresno Unified on Thursday that the Bullard student had TB, Arias said. The district and the health department are not identifying the student because of patient confidentiality.
Tuberculosis is a potentially serious infectious disease caused by bacteria that affects the lungs. While people with TB often do not show symptoms, they can be affected by coughing, weight loss, night sweats and fever.
Bullard students and staff who were notified to be tested were identified as having been in close proximity to the student, said Dr. Ken Bird, health officer for Fresno County. It’s unlikely that anyone exposed to the student will be infectious, but they should be tested to rule it out, he said.
The student’s family has been tested, Bird said, adding “It looks like there are some infections in the immediate family.” There are no signs, however, that any siblings are infectious, he said. The county is awaiting test results for the parents.
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria spread through the air when a person coughs, sneezes or talks. People who have been exposed to TB germs may have no symptoms, and some won’t spread the bacteria to others. They can remain infected with no disease for the rest of their lives, but in 5 percent to 10 percent of cases, infected patients progress to “active” disease, a serious, life-threatening illness that can be spread.
The student is being treated for TB with four different medications, Bird said. The student is isolated at home and is not attending classes, he said.
“We wish the student a full recovery and will welcome him back when he’s released by the Department of Health,” Arias said.
The disease in the student was detected by a TB skin test that had been given at the health department, Bird said. The student had been sent to get immunizations required for school attendance, and health staff suggested he get a skin test for TB, Bird said. The TB skin test is not required for school admission.
It’s not known when or where the student was infected. From the progression of the illness, it’s unlikely that the infection came from someone else at the school, Bird said. “But we certainly want to rule that out.”
TB cases are an ongoing concern in Fresno County. As of Friday, 46 people in the county have been diagnosed with active TB so far this year. That’s more than the 40 cases diagnosed in 2015.
It is fairly unusual for schools to have cases. This is only the second confirmed case of TB in a Fresno Unified school in the past decade. In 2013, the adult school had a case, according to Arias.