SEFFNER — Health officials addressed dozens of concerned parents at Armwood High School Wednesday after discovering this week that a 17-year-old student there has tuberculosis.
On Monday, nurses will be prepared to give skin tests to about 250 students and staff members identified as those who may have been exposed to the infection, said Dr. Doug Holt, director of the Hillsborough County Health Department.
TB is contagious and is spread through the air when an infected person is in an enclosed area with other people for eight or more hours, Holt said. The disease can be treated with six to 12 months of medication.
Here are some of the questions parents asked and the answers health officials gave.
• What if tests show that more students have TB? The Department of Health will recommend tests for more students. But a positive skin test doesn't mean the infection is active or harmful. If a positive test occurs, the person will undergo an examination to find out if the disease is active.
• Should a positive TB test interfere with students' regular activities? No. Only someone with an active case feels symptoms and is infectious.
• What if my child is not identified as at risk, but I want him or her tested? The school will test students who aren't on the list if they have a doctor's note requesting it.
TB is caused by bacteria, and symptoms include weakness, night sweats, fever, weight loss, chest pain, a cough lasting three weeks or more, and coughing up sputum or blood.
TB doesn't live on surfaces, so there is no need to sanitize schools as was done with the swine flu, Holt said. It can live in air-conditioning systems, but principal Marc Hutek said the school's air filters have been changed.
The girl who has TB is recovering, Holt said. Her case is believed to be mildly contagious.