High school student diagnosed with tuberculosis in Riverside County

MENIFEE, Calif (KABC) -- A student at Heritage High School in Menifee has tested positive for active tuberculosis, according Riverside County health officials who were working to identify others who may have been exposed to the disease.

A joint statement released Wednesday by the Perris Union High School District and Riverside University Health System said the student was "receiving treatment and is expected to recover, although the individual will not return to school until a medical clearance is issued."

Some 500 letters were being sent to students and parents whose children may have been exposed to the illness, according to the news release. Members of Heritage High's staff were also expected to be notified.

"We are taking this situation very seriously and working closely with the Riverside County Health Department on behalf of our students and staff," district Superintendent Grant Bennett said.

Some parents expressed concern over the disease.

"I am very nervous because I mean, I have a child at home and there are others in the family, too. So, I don't want this to happen to us," said parent Marie Gutierrez.

Tuberculosis skin tests are scheduled to be offered at the campus in January. The health department encouraged people to be screened as a precautionary measure if they receive a notice.

Individuals who prefer to be tested during the school's winter break can do so for free at a county-operated health clinic in Perris or Hemet, the statement said, or by their personal healthcare provider at their own expense.

"Those who do not receive notification are considered not to be at risk for exposure, and TB testing is not recommended," the news release said.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county's public health officer, said the risk of infection was "slight."

Student Ronald Robinson said he's cautious about who he comes into contact with and doesn't plan to take the test.

"I am not worried because I don't come in contact with a lot of students. I keep my distance, so as long as I do that, I am not worried," he said.

Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that spreads during prolonged, repeated and close contact with a person who is infected with the active illness. It can be contracted by breathing air that was exhaled by someone who has tuberculosis and can result in serious complications if left untreated.

According to health officials, the disease cannot be spread through handshakes, sharing food or drink, bed linens or toilet seats. Not all patients infected with tuberculosis bacteria become sick, and a person with latent TB cannot spread it to others.

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