MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some parents received letters in the mail Thursday saying their teenagers may have been exposed to an infectious disease.
The Minnesota Department of Health says it has been able to narrow down the list of students and staff who may have had close contact with the contagious individual.
The school district has not stated whether it was a student or staff member, but officials say they were contacted by the health department in late November when the person was diagnosed.
The district was advised to wait until now to notify parents because it takes at least two months after exposure for any testing to be effective.
The school district says someone who had TB but was unaware was inside the building while contagious during the months of September, October and November. The school has about 1,400 students.
“Initially you probably wouldn’t have symptoms, and then over time, especially if it’s in the lungs where it’s the most common, you’d develop things like a cough, fever, night sweats,” said Dr. Dean Tsukayama, an infectious disease specialist at the Hennepin County Health Department.
TB is spread primarily through airborne droplets from coughing.
“It spreads out through the air and then if you come into contact with it, you potentially could get infected with TB,” Dr. Tsukayama said.
Dave Johnson is a public health manager for the Hennepin County Health Department. He says the testing will take place at St. Louis Park High School to make it as convenient as possible. It takes place on Jan. 30 – 31, and is voluntary. He says it takes time for the results to come in.
“The test for tuberculosis doesn’t work until at least eight weeks have passed between exposure,” Johnson said.
The treatment for TB is typically antibiotics. The disease is common worldwide, but it is rare in the United States.
“I think we have worked very hard with the school to identify the people who are at highest risk, who have had the most exposure,” Johnson said. “And we’re going to make sure that those people get the best follow up necessary.”
The letters that went out to parents and staff are not all the same. Some say that testing is recommended because the person had close contact with the contagious individual.
Others say testing is not recommended because the investigation revealed there was limited or no contact with the person who had TB.
The health department tells WCCO they believe about 166 people need to be tested, including students and staff.
The results of the test, which involves a skin injection, are not immediately available, and those tested will have to wait a few days. Doctors will then determine if treatment with antibiotics or more tests are necessary.
TB is extremely dangerous if left untreated.