About 135 people at Kentridge High to be evaluated for tuberculosis

Steps taken after one person at school diagnosed with active TB; exposure was March to September 2023

COURTESY IMAGE, Public Health - Seattle & King County

COURTESY IMAGE, Public Health - Seattle & King County

Public Health – Seattle & King County is following up on the report of a Kentridge High School community member who was diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB).

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, according to a Sept. 26 Facebook post by Public Health – Seattle & King County.

TB is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that are passed from person to person through the air, according to Public Health. 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.

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, according to Public Health. This exposure occurred from March through September 2023.

Kent School District will be directly contacting these individuals who need TB evaluation, according to Public Health. 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 three to four months.

Unlike active TB disease, people with latent (or dormant) TB infection can’t spread it to others and are not ill with the disease, according to Public Health. 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, according to Public Health.

For that reason, Public Health 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, according to Public Health. Most cases of active TB are readily treatable with antibiotics that are commonly available; treatment typically takes six to nine months.

TB usually affects the lungs, but can affect lymph nodes, bones, joints, and other parts of the body, according to Public Health. 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 at https://www.cdc.gov/tb/default.htm.


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