News 12 first reported about the tuberculosis scare on Wednesday morning. Read more here.
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hundreds of students and several teachers are finding themselves at the center of a tuberculosis scare.
School leaders at Butler High School held a public meeting highly-contagious disease on Wednesday night.
"Typically when people think of TB, they think I have a highly-contagious disease ... I have the black plague," said Larry Walker with the Richmond County Health Department.
Department leaders turned to our weekly radio segment on 96.3 KISS FM to give the community the inside story on a suspected case of tuberculosis at Butler High School.
"A suspect case is a person who may have been exposed but has not been fully diagnosed." said Kim Taylor Brown, who is TB district coordinator.
At least 10 teachers and 200 students may have come in contact with the suspect.
"Now, granted, that is a lot of students," Walker said. "Compared to the total student population, we are talking a small number. We don't want to by any means create a panic."
The Health Department is offering free testing for those most at risk.
"We're more concerned about those who have been in tight quarters with this case for a long period of time," Brown said.
Symptoms are similar to those of a virus or bad cold. They include fever, weight loss, and coughing for more than two weeks.
"If left untreated, TB can lead to hospitalization and be very serious." Walker said.
The news drove parents to call with questions about containment.
"How do we know if this student was on their bus or riding their bus around the smaller kids who have to ride from the neighborhood and go to the local schools to go to CT Walker?" the caller asked.
"The good thing about the TB germ is it is killed in an open space." Brown said. "It can't live on a school bus."
There are more than 900 students at Butler High School. One of the students is now showing signs of a disease that could have been festering for more than a year.
"When I heard it, I was a little shocked and surprised and worried as well," said school Principal Greg Thompson. "We're taking it very serious. We've had meetings with our teachers. We are scheduling appointments for kids to be tested."
Many parents say they were left in the dark.
"I am very disappointed that I haven't been notified that something is going on in the school," said Tammy Johnson.
Johnson has two kids at the school.
"I don't know whether I need to go back to work or not," Johnson said. "Do I need to turn around and go back in the school and get them?"
"Is this a time to panic?" we asked Walker.
"Absolutely not," Walker replied. "We are only talking to and encouraging parents who have children that were in contact with the suspect. Letters have gone out specifically to those parents who have students who were in the classroom with that particular child."
Johnson is still concerned.
"I think everybody should be tested," Johnson said. "Regardless of how many they found, but the whole school should be tested."
Parents were given consent forms at the public meeting. Testing begins next week. The Health Department says the test will be free for those 200 students and 10 teachers identified by the school.