South Carolina state health officials have confirmed that a case of tuberculosis, which is both contagious and potentially deadly if left untreated, was detected at a middle school in Rock Hill.
Officials at Rock Hill’s Castle Heights Middle School said in a letter to parents last week that the suspected case involved an eighth-grade student, the Rock Hill Herald reported. The Herald reported arlier this week that the student had been out of school since Dec. 13.
Confirmation of the diagnosis came via a letter to parents Thursday, which warned that other students may need to be tested for the disease in coming weeks. That’s only if it is proven they had contact with the infected student, the letter said.
“The case has been confirmed by laboratory testing, and DHEC’s investigation is active and on-going,” said a letter sent to parents by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
“The contact investigation includes evaluating the school layout and routine activities of the case to determine the level of risk for classrooms, lunchrooms and other areas where students and staff congregate...Individuals who are identified as close contacts will receive the recommendation to be tested for TB first.”
Someone who has been infected with TB cannot spread the germ unless they have symptoms, such as a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, pain in the chest, and coughing up blood or sputum. The disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics.
“Testing everyone in a school is rarely recommended,” noted the letter to parents. "Most people exposed to TB do not become infected...Some people exposed to TB become infected with the TB germ, but only 5-10 percent of them go on to become sick from TB.”
If a child is recommended for testing, DHEC will provide the testing at no cost. Students at the school who test positive for TB infection during the investigation will get antibiotics at no cost from DHEC, the letter said.