More than 120 students at a Southern California high school tested positive for possible exposure to tuberculosis after a classmate was diagnosed with an active case of the potentially deadly illness, health officials said Monday.
The results do not mean those students at Indio High School have active tuberculosis, but all 126 will have to undergo chest X-rays to determine the extent of their exposure.
The entire student body and all staff members – 1,332 in all – were tested for tuberculosis last week after several students at the Indio campus tested positive for possible exposure and needed further examination, according to the Riverside County Health Department.
Most of those tested on Dec. 20 returned to school during winter break on Monday to have their skin tests reviewed and the results were “within expected levels,” the Riverside County Health Department said.
No one will be allowed to be return to school in the new year without proof they've been tested as well as the results of those tests.
“Given this population, we would expect a positive test result of no more than 10 to 15 percent,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer. “These numbers are very reassuring for the community as a whole.”
Kaiser said he remains confident that the likelihood of the illness spreading remains low.
The student whose active case of tuberculosis prompted the campus-wide tests is undergoing an intensive antibiotic regimen and is expected to recover.
Tuberculosis, or TB, is caused by bacteria that usually attack the lungs, but it can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If not treated with a months-long antibiotic regimen, TB can be fatal.
The illness is spread through the air when a person with tuberculosis of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, secreting bacteria through their mouths which then can be breathed in by others.
Symptoms of TB include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, chest pain, coughing up blood, weakness or fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, chills, fever and night sweats, according to the CDC.
Not everyone infected with the TB bacterium comes sick, the agency said.
A vaccine against the disease is not widely used in the U.S., but is often given to infants and children in other countries where TB is common, the CDC said.
Last month, health officials in Los Angeles County said they were investigating a single case of the highly contagious illness found at a Glendale jewelry manufacturer.
Some 9,945 cases of TB were reported in the U.S. in 2012, marking a 5.4 percent decrease from the year before, according to the latest statistics available from the CDC.
California, Texas, New York and Florida accounted for half of last year’s total cases of TB nationwide, the report found.
This year, there have been at least two TB outbreaks in the Southland.
The contagious disease was found in LA’s homeless population in February. A month later, hundreds of students and staff at Cal Poly Pomona were urged to take a TB skin test after a student at the school tested positive for tuberculosis.