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Duplin leaders commend county employees for way they handled recent TB scare

(WITN)
Published: Sep. 20, 2019 at 5:57 PM EDT
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County leaders are praising the Duplin County Health Department, School District, and state public health division following their response to Tuberculosis concerns within the school district.

The groups involved said their staffs were instrumental in reaction to the recent Tuberculosis concerns at Wallace Elementary.

Tracey Simmons-Kornegay, Health Director for the Duplin County Health Department, said this week that "The investigation has been completed within the school system and no problems were identified for the students and staff at WALE".

"This has been a truly collaborative effort with everyone involved and we are grateful for the diligent work and direction put in place to complete the testing process with accuracy while keeping the health and safety of our students and staff, a top priority. We are thankful and very blessed with this outcome and we appreciate the amazing support of everyone involved including our DCS Student Support Staff, administrators, school nurses, parents, students, and our entire community," said Dr. Austin Obasohan, Superintendent for Duplin County Schools.

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The Duplin County School System and the Duplin County Health Department are investigating a case of tuberculosis that could impact the staff and students at two schools in the district.

“This is a very, very important safety issue for us and the board of education and the health department,” said school Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan.

District leaders announced Friday that individuals at Wallace-Rose Hill High School and Wallace Elementary may have been exposed to someone infected with tuberculosis, often referred to as "TB."

Dr. Obasohan said, “As the protocol was to follow, right now we sent letters out to all of our parents when it was the right time to do so.”

According to the health department, as of Monday, they could only confirm one case of tuberculosis in the county. However, employees would not release any information about the individual infected, or how others may be exposed.

This is the first case of tuberculosis involving a school in Duplin County since March 2013 and school employees are working with the health department to follow all necessary protocols. “We have been informed by the public health department that there is no imminent threat at this point to our students," Dr. Obasohan added.

Symptoms of TB include fever, coughing, involuntary weight loss, and extreme perspiration, but health professionals say it can be cured if treated promptly.

With only one case per year reported in the county during the previous two years, officials say this is not a common occurrence. “The health department is doing everything they can to keep everybody safe because safety in our schools is their priority too."

Health department leaders say they don’t know how the infected party was exposed, but add that individuals can be exposed in various ways and they've contacted all exposed individuals.

Health officials recommend anyone with TB symptoms contact their primary care physician immediately.

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An Eastern Carolina school system says some people at two of its schools may have been exposed to someone with tuberculosis.

Duplin County Schools says this exposure is likely limited to a very small number of people.

The two schools involved are Wallace Elementary School and Wallace Rose Hill High School.

The school system says it's working closely with the county health department and North Carolina Health Services to contact those people who may have been exposed to ensure they receive testing and treatment.

Duplin County says the vast majority of employees and students at the two schools will not be contacted as they do not need any testing or treatement.

TB is a diseases that usually develops over weeks to months, and officials say it is completely curable with treatment.

Information from the Duplin County Health Department

TB is a disease that often affects the lungs. People who are sick with TB often have one or more of the following symptoms:

o Cough lasting over 3 weeks

o Coughing up blood

o Fever

o Profuse sweating at night, often soaking the bed sheets

o Unintentional weight loss

o Poor appetite

o Chest pain or discomfort

o Difficulty breathing

● However, all of these symptoms can be caused by many other diseases besides TB

● TB is transmitted when a sick person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. The germs are expelled into the air, and if a nearby person breathes them in, that person can become infected with TB.

● TB is killed relatively quickly by sunlight, so usually transmission occurs indoors

● TB infection is diagnosed by either a TB skin test or a blood test.

o For the TB skin test, a small amount of liquid is injected under the skin of the arm. A healthcare worker examines this arm 2-3 days later. If the area where the liquid was injected swells up, this indicates that the person has been exposed to the TB germ at some point during her/his lifetime.

o The blood test requires a single blood draw, and tests whether the person's immune system recognizes the TB germ.

o A positive TB skin test or blood test does not mean that a person is sick with TB.

● It can take up to 2 months after exposure for the TB skin test or blood test to turn positive. Standard procedure is to test exposed persons at the time that the exposure is discovered, and then to repeat the same test 2 months or more later if it is negative the first time.

● Once a person has been exposed to TB and has a positive TB skin test or blood test, that person has TB infection and may become ill with TB disease in the future. The risk of becoming ill depends on that person's immune system; persons with weak immune systems are more likely to become ill with TB disease than persons with normal immune systems.

● For a person with a positive TB skin test or blood test (TB infection) and a normal immune system, there is about a 5% risk of becoming sick with TB disease during the first 2 years after exposure. There is an additional 5% risk to become sick with TB disease at some point later in life, more than 2 years after the initial exposure. A person can become sick with TB disease 20 or more years after an exposure occurs.

● One can reduce the risk of becoming sick with TB disease in the future by taking medicine. The standard course of medicine is one pill every day for 9 months, and this reduces the risk to get sick in the future by about 80%.

● People who are sick with TB disease can be cured with medicines almost 100% of the time.

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