Parents learn if child needs to be tested at mandatory meeting

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News 12 at 11/ Wednesday, April 16, 2014

HEPHZIBAH, Ga. (WRDW) -- Another Richmond County school is gearing up for tuberculosis testing.

First it was Butler, then Glenn Hills. After that we had A.R. Johnson, and now it's Hephzibah High School.

News 12 was at Wednesday's meeting where parents finally learned what's in store for their kids.

Parents went in empty handed with only a rumor about what the meeting would be about, but they left with one of two sheets explaining what was in store for their child.

It started with a call from the principal.

"A recording saying we had a mandatory meeting for the children of Hephzibah High School," parent Tony Jennings explained.

It was an ambiguous message that left many parents wondering what the news could be.

"A little nervous and a little scary," admitted Jennings.

Fast forward to six o'clock Wednesday. The school gym starts filling up, and the health department arrives.

"Coming here was to quell anxieties that may be running rampant in parents minds," Richmond County Health Department's Emmitt Walker said.

Our cameras are kicked out of the meeting, but we stay and listen as the parents are informed one student has shown symptoms of tuberculosis, and now some others will be tested.

"I don't feel like it put anybody at ease," parent Tammy Duran said.

Duran has several kids at the school. While most parents got an informational sheet of paper about tuberculosis, Duran got a different one. Hers said one of her children needed to be screened after finding out her niece is on the list of kids who may have come in contact with the student exposed.

"My son was not on the list, but my niece was," she said. "And then they gave me the paper to fill out for permission to test her."

The testing will begin Monday, but Emergency Medicine Doctor James Wilde says parents shouldn't worry because even if your child gets a positive test, it doesn't mean they're sick.

"Having a positive test for tuberculosis doesn't necessarily mean you have infection with tuberculosis. We have a lot of false positives," Dr. Wilde said.

In fact, according to the numbers, 14 percent of people in Augusta are likely to get a false positive.

For now, it's giving many a false sense of fear for students and their safety.

Tuberculosis is contagious and spread through the air, but unless you have active TB, which is different from simply being exposed, you can't spread the disease to anyone.

The good news is TB is very treatable with simple antibiotics.

When a parent at the meeting asked why not all the students are being tested, like they did at Butler High School, the Health Department responded saying not everyone needed it.

They said this is their starting point, and if they find out they need more testing, they'll expand the list.

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