The Inside Story: Health department warning teachers/parents of exposure to highly-contagious disease

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hundreds of Richmond County students have been possibly exposed to a highly-contagious disease. Members of the Richmond County Health Department have been notifying parents and teachers since Friday.

Here is what we know: Doctors say a student may have exposed teachers and students at a local high school to tuberculosis.

Testing is ongoing, but teachers and parents are being contacted. Letters went home on Friday, and there was an informational workshop on Monday.

Approximately 200 students and 10 or more teachers at Butler High School could have been impacted.

Testing will be offered on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2012, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the school.

The Richmond County Board of Education issued this news release Wednesday afternoon:
"There have been several inquiries following the initial announcement that the Board of Health and Richmond County School System are cooperating to complete tuberculosis screening activities at Butler High School. In an effort to keep you informed and provide perspective, please be aware that one student who attends Butler High School has recently been identified as being suspect for TB. Even though the risk is minimal, the most common way to become infected with TB germs is close encounter and significant time spent with a person who is a TB suspect.

Please note, however, at this point there is no confirmation that the suspect student has tuberculosis. Results are still pending.

The County Board of Health, along with the school’s administration has identified those who may have been exposed to TB germs in this case. A test known as the TB skin test (Mantoux/TST) indicates whether TB germs have infected a person. According to standard protocol, those staff and students who have spent a significant amount of time with this individual are being notified to be tested. The test is simple. Testing will be offered on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2012, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the school.

It is necessary for the individuals tested to return in two days to have the skin test result read. The test results will be read on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the school.

If a child tests positive, the Board of Health will notify the parents, and their child will need to come to the Board of Health for further evaluation. Notification letters to parents were previously sent in a timely manner.

Unfortunately, a news outlet incorrectly reported this morning that possibly hundreds of students may have been exposed. To our knowledge, that assertion is inaccurate and not based on any sustainable evidence. Instead, out of an abundance of precaution and to ensure a safe environment, students who have been exposed to the suspected student are being tested. Board of Health officials are contacting state officials to determine the proper protocol to follow for fellow bus riders. The student did regularly ride school transportation, but that the time spent may not qualify for suspect testing. However, officials are being as thorough as possible and if different advice is received, such updated advice will be followed. We will continue to work with the Board of Health to quickly resolve this situation. We want to further assure you that we are committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for both our students and faculty."

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