Tuberculosis scare keeps fans away even though health officials say it was safe

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Friday, Nov. 2, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- After local health officials promised parents their kids would be safe, two local high schools decided to play on, but the crowd reflected a different story.

"The fans, the staff, everyone attending the game, including the football players, they are all safe," assured Larry Walker from the Richmond County Health Department.

A relief to hear after a recent tuberculosis scare at Butler High.

"They love their football in Burke County, but they also love their children, and I think we gave them a pretty effective feeling of security," said Burke County Schools Administrative Liason Chris Henry.

Even though the experts said there was nothing to worry about, the crowd showed many parents were not convinced.

"We can understand why the parents are concerned, but their concerns I can say without a doubt, can be allayed or reduced or diminished, because in this environment, football game, open air, there's no chance that their child can be exposed," Walker said confidently.

Deciding to travel to Butler's home field to play the game was no easy decision.

"We worked with the Burke County Health Department, we worked with the Richmond County Health Department, a physician in Waynesboro helped us, public relations helped us," Henry said.

After hours of research and talking to medical experts, Henry says learning more about the bacteria helped him make a confident decision to play.

"What we've learned since investigating it is that this is the absolute best place for us to be tonight with this open air, which is gonna totally dissipate any of the bacteria that could be around," Henry said.

Walker realizes that when people "hear TB, you think uh oh, I've got something that's gonna kill me," but without enclosed spaces, poor ventilation and a long period of exposure -- practically the opposite of a football game -- experts say contracting TB is nearly impossible.

Once both teams learned that their only concern became winning.

"Let's not focus on the TB. Let's focus on the QB, and let's see what happens," Henry said.

News 12 asked if there was any concern about being in the locker rooms.

Henry said Burke County did take precautions. They decided to arrive a little later than normal and abbreviate the time spent in the locker rooms altogether.

He also mentioned the band was missing quite a few members tonight because their parents did not want them to attend.

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