Health officials are investigating a rare case of tuberculosis that has been confirmed at a North Carolina high school.
“We have informed staff, parents and guardians of students who need to be tested to ensure any potential exposure to TB is identified,” public health director Dr Iulia Vann said in a statement.
It is currently unknown whether a student or a staff member contracted tuberculosis and when they can return to school.
While the health department said that most of the staff and students at the school would not need any testing or treatment, a letter sent home caused some students to wear masks or even stay home from school.
“There is a worry because you don’t want to send everyone into a panic, but as a parent, there is a worry that they may be more infected than what is being told,” Ashley Mitchell, whose daughter attends Ragsdale High School, told WGHP.
She explained that there is somewhat of a “panic going on” as tuberculosis cases are rarely heard of.
Christy Rodriguez, a parent of a child who has underlying health conditions, told The Messenger, that her son was identified as possibly being exposed to the tuberculosis case.
“Why isn’t school closing down right now knowing someone was there that had TB?” Rodriguez said, adding that she will keep her son home from school for the time being.
Those who may have been exposed to the confirmed case will be offered free testing for the disease this week at the school.
“We will be monitoring individuals to see if they develop any symptoms; we want everybody to understand that there’s no one that is at immediate risk, " said Tammy Koonce, a nursing services consultant at the Guildford County Division of Public Health, to the outlet.
The health department will offer treatment to anyone who contracts the illness at no extra cost.
In 2022, there were 163 reported tuberculosis cases in North Carolina, according to data from the National Institutes of Health, and 8,300 cases across the US.
Compared to other illnesses, contracting tuberculosis is a rare occurrence.
The bacteria spread through the air and needs to be breathed in to become infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Not everyone gets sick from breathing in tuberculosis, but those with a weaker immune system may develop symptoms.
People with TB in their lungs may have a bad cough, a pain in their chest or will cough up blood and phlegm.
There are several treatments recommended by the CDC depending on how bad the disease is; if it is not treated early enough, the symptoms may get worse and can be fatal.