RICHMOND, Texas - Hundreds of students and dozens of faculty members at George Bush High School in Fort Bend ISD will not be allowed to start the school year unless they come to campus on Thursday to be tested for tuberculosis.
Fort Bend County Health and Human Services determined 647 students and 27 faculty members possibly had contact with individuals with active TB cases.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease which spreads by inhaling airborne, microscopic droplets or saliva that originate in the mouths of infected individuals. It is more difficult to contract that the common cold, but it is contagious.
Four people linked to the high school were determined to have had contagious active TB in late May.
The school district sent letters and emails to the hundreds of students requesting they come to the campus on June 19 for testing.
The turnout was much worse than health department officials had hoped. Only 228 students showed up to have their blood drawn.
"The fact that we found out about the infectious case May 30, two days before school broke out, is kind of the worst possibility,” said Fort Bend County Heath and Human Services deputy director Kaye Reynolds. “These children will not be able to go into school at the beginning of the school year unless they have undergone the investigation process.”
Eleven students tested positive for the TB bacteria following the June 19 tests at the school, however, none of them had become active cases yet.
“TB is a very serious disease and part of it is because it is hard to treat,” Reynolds said. “It can spread to all parts of the body and cause all sorts of issues including bone, organs, brain and so forth.”
There is no vaccination or preventative care available in the United States for tuberculosis.
It is contracted when a person inhales droplets of bodily fluid from the infected individual. Reynolds says this usually happens over the course of time after prolonged contact with the infected person.
Treatment for TB must be monitored by the health department and can last up to two years.
Drug-resistant strains of TB have become more prevalent in recent years. These untreatable strains have been present in Fort Bend County in the past.
All George Bush High School students who received letters stating they would need to be tested must have their blood drawn on Aug. 3. This includes those previously tested on June 19. Those who tested positive for TB are exempt from this week’s tests. Health department workers will perform the tests from noon to 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
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