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TB scare at 2 Southland high schools

September 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Health officials are dealing with a tuberculosis scare at two Southland high schools on Tuesday. Officials are preparing to test students who may have come in contact with those who were infected.One of the infected parties is from Wilson High School in Long Beach. The other is from John W. North High School in Riverside.

A tuberculosis scare has not happened in the Riverside Unified School district for 13 years. However, this week, a John North High School student is in the hospital with active tuberculosis.

The 12th-grade female may have infected others, but no one knows how many -- if any -- students are infected. Student Brandon Whitchurch said teachers are trying to maintain calm.

"They were saying that most kids weren't exposed, but the kids that were are going to be tested for it. And it's up to the students to decide whether they want the test," said Whitchurch.

On Wednesday, every student who had class with the infected student will be tested, if their parents give consent.

"Yes, I'll go for that, anything to prevent it," said Rosie Martinez, a concerned parent.

Tuberculosis is an airborne disease passed from person to person.

"You don't get TB from casual contact with someone who has it," said Barbara Cole, Riverside County Health Department. "It's a result of ongoing, prolonged contact, sharing the same airspace. So obviously in a home setting, with family members, they can be at risk. In a school setting -- any indoor setting where people share air on an ongoing basis -- it's possible to become infected."

It's rare that tuberculosis is fatal. In fact, the health department says if treated, it is 100 percent curable. That is why North High School Principal Dale Kinnear isn't taking any chances.

"There's a lot of talk and I think there's some worry. We've had some telephone calls this morning with parents that are concerned, and they wanted to talk to us about whether or not they should pull their child out of school, and what's going to happen," said Kinnear. "All the information I have from the health department is that there shouldn't be that kind of panic."

 

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