News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It looks like two more cases of tuberculosis are about to be confirmed at Butler High School. This comes as 75 students and teachers test positive for exposure.
"Just because you have a TB test positive [for exposure] doesn't mean that you have the disease," noted Richmond County Health Director Ketty Gonzalez at Wednesday afternoon's news conference.
So far, 500 students and teachers have been tested. There is only one confirmed case of TB at this time, but there are two others who seem to have an unconfirmed "clinical cases" of the disease.
"We are in the process of confirming two additional cases," Dr. Gonzalez said.
The health scare at Butler High School started about a month ago when school officials began testing students and faculty.
"The safety of the children must come first," said Richmond County PTA President Monique Braswell.
Perhaps more alarming is the fact that more than 50 test takers have not come back to learn their results.
"Parents, please go back to get your results. Whether you think they are positive or negative," Braswell pleaded. "If they are positive, you are endangering the lives of other people, and if they are negative, then that's a great thing for everyone else."
Braswell says the school system did not get off on the right foot with their response. She says the less-than-optimal initial response caused some parents to consider removing their kids from the school.
The mission now is to answer one big question to parents and students liking.
"Is the school safe?" we asked Student Services Director Carol Rountree.
"The school is absolutely safe," Rountree said. "We are continuing to be very aggressive in all of our maintenance. Tuberculosis can be managed. That this is not something we should be afraid of."
The Richmond County Health Department says there is no need to panic.
"I am confident that everything is under control," Gonzalez said.
Those 75 students who tested positive for being exposed to the disease will now undergo further tests to determine if they have the disease. All students who tested negative will be retested in the next eight to 10 weeks as a precaution.