1,500 tested for TB at Southern California school

More than 1,500 staff and students at a Southern California high school were tested for tuberculosis after one student was diagnosed with the bacterial infection last month, health officials said Friday. 

Nearly 1,400 students and faculty at Indio High School were tested on Friday and around 130 students had the TB tests on Monday. 

Forty-five students tested positive for possible exposure but more tests, including X-rays will be needed to determine whether they have active TB, health officials said. 

Five students were sent home Thursday after follow-up X-rays showed they needed further examination. 

“This is just the most recent step in the standard, medically accepted process for handling potential exposures,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer, said in a statement. “We have required testing for everyone at the school as a precaution, even though the chance of the illness being passed from one person to another is remote.” 

Some students and staff were tested by their own health care providers, authorities said. 

Everyone will have to show proof of testing before they can return to school in January. 

Officials stressed they do not think the infection has spread to any other schools or surrounding neighborhoods. Health officials also said they don’t believe students’ families are at risk. 

“We have seen these things happen in other parts of the state and the world. We know how to treat them, and how to cure this disease,” Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit told the Desert Sun  “And not everyone who tests positive is going to have a serious bout with this disease.” 

Tuberculosis is a contagious disease that typically attacks the lungs. General symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats. A person needs to spend an extended time close to someone who has the disease in order to become infected. 

Treatment for tuberculosis involves taking medications, in some cases for up to nine months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The disease was brought to the high school by a student who was there from September until mid-November. The student, who has not been identified by authorities, is expected to make a full recovery. 

Noemi Munoz said her son is one of the 45 students who showed signs of exposure. She questioned if health officials could have acted more quickly and given students tests. 

“I feel like it should have been done before Thanksgiving break, when we were all first notified,” she said. “I think that would have contained it a little bit better.”