Public Health – Seattle & King County plans tuberculosis (TB) screenings later this month for the approximately 135 people at Kentridge High School who were exposed to a person with active TB.
Public Health announced the exposure Sept. 26, as previously reported by the Kent Reporter.
“Our program worked with the school to identify approximately 135 people who were exposed long enough to the person with active TB that they should be screened for infection,” Public Health spokesperson Kaila Lafferty said in an Oct. 2 email. “Public Health will be conducting a screening for those 135 people in October.”
Lafferty said the number hasn’t changed.
“We are not aware of any additional people with active or latent TB connected to Kentridge High School at this time,” Lafferty said.
Lafferty said that active TB disease and latent TB infection are different.
“Unlike active TB disease, people with latent (or dormant) TB infection can’t spread it to others and are not ill with the disease,” Lafferty said. “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.”
As a precaution, approximately 135 people from Kentridge 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 directly contact 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.
The test is a TB blood test, which shows whether the person being tested has been infected with TB, Lafferty said. The blood shows if TB is detected and additional screening is then conducted to determine if the TB is active or latent.
The results will determine whether a follow-up appointment and a chest X-ray are needed.
“No isolation is needed for anyone at the school prior to the screening,” Lafferty said.
People at the school who are identified to be infected with latent TB may be recommended for treatment, so that they do not develop the disease in the future, Lafferty said. Latent TB infection can be treated in three to four months.
“If we identify any new cases of people with active TB, then we would identify people who were exposed to them and do another screening,” Lafferty said.
The person at Kentridge 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.