Over 100 people from Kentridge High School have been recommended for tuberculosis evaluation after a school community member was diagnosed with active tuberculosis, the Seattle & King County Public Health Department announced.

Public Health is working with Kent School District officials to define the extent of any potential TB exposures, conduct evaluations for those exposed, and provide guidance and information to the school communities affected. 

The agency said that 135 people were contacted based on the time they spent exposed to the diagnosed person within an indoor space.

The exposure happened between March and September 2023.

Tuberculosis is spread through coughs and sneezes, but it is less likely to spread than the cold or flu. To be infected with tuberculosis, a person typically must be exposed to it more than once and for a prolonged amount of time within a confined space.

If those who were contacted are diagnosed with latent tuberculosis, they may be recommended for treatment to prevent them from developing active tuberculosis in the future. Latent tuberculosis is not infectious and does not cause illness.

According to health officials, around 100,000 people in King County have latent tuberculosis, and 5% of those who do will develop the active version within two years. Another 5% will develop active tuberculosis over the rest of their lifetime.

The health department is urging anyone who was contacted to schedule a tuberculosis evaluation as soon as possible. Evaluations can be done at a doctor’s office or at a public health clinic.

Here’s more info on this case from Public Health:

TB is not easy to spread 

TB is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that are passed from person to person through the air. TB is not easily spread; it’s much harder to spread than the cold or flu. It typically takes repeated and prolonged exposure in a confined indoor space to become infected with TB. Even in households with a contagious TB case, only about 1-in-3 close household contacts become infected. 

Details on the evaluation 

As a precaution, approximately 135 people from Kentridge High School, are recommended to be evaluated for TB, based on the amount of time they were exposed to the person with TB in indoor spaces. This exposure occurred from March through September 2023. Kent School District will be directly contacting these individuals who need TB evaluation. If you are not contacted, you are not considered to be exposed, and no action is required.  

People at the schools who are identified to be infected with latent TB infection may be recommended for treatment, so that they do not develop the disease in the future. Latent TB infection can be treated in 3-4 months.  

Active TB versus latent TB infection 

Unlike active TB disease, people with latent (or dormant) TB infection can’t spread it to others and are not ill with the disease. Approximately 100,000 people in King County have latent TB infection. While they aren’t contagious now, they could potentially have active TB in the future and also infect others.

Approximately 5% of those who acquire latent TB infection develop active TB within two years and an additional 5% of them develop active TB over the rest of their lifetime.  For that reason, we will be conducting TB evaluation in the Kentridge High School community in a timely manner to identify those who are recently infected with TB and offer preventive treatment to stop the spread of TB. 

The person at Kentridge High School with active TB disease is receiving treatment and is currently not a risk for infecting others. Most cases of active TB are readily treatable with antibiotics that are commonly available; treatment typically takes six to nine months. 

More about TB 

TB usually affects the lungs, but can affect lymph nodes, bones, joints, and other parts of the body. A person with active TB in the lungs can spread the disease by coughing or sneezing. In King County, 111 new cases of TB disease were reported in 2022. On average, about two cases of TB disease are diagnosed in King County each week. 

To learn more about signs, symptoms, and transmission of TB, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s TB website

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