An active case of tuberculosis was identified in the Syracuse City School District. Onondaga County health officials are advising residents that the disease does not spread rapidly, and is treatable and curable.
Due to HIPAA privacy policies, the only information that has been disclosed about the infected individual is that they are associated with the Public Service Leadership Academy at Fowler High School. Officials did not report if the person was student, faculty, or staff. The individual had supposedly been sick for weeks, eventually being hospitalized.
“While TB is less common than it once was, it still remains a public health concern,” said Dr. Indu Gupta, county health commissioner. “Anyone can contract the disease after exposure to an active TB case.”
Tuberculosis is an airborne illness caused by bacteria that generally affects the patient’s lungs. TB can cause persistent coughing, night sweats, weakness, weight loss, and fever. The symptoms can start months after contracting the bacteria.
While anyone can catch the disease once exposed to an active TB case, health department officials are not concerned with a rise in TB cases. TB can be spread through coughing, sneezing, or spitting, but officials say that someone would have to share a poorly-ventilated airspace with the patient for hours in order to contract the bacteria.
Fortunately, the infection can be treated with antibiotics at a hospital. With emergency room visits now reaching 110 million annually, tuberculosis cases are typically caught as soon as the patient visits a doctor or is hospitalized. Unfortunately, patients may not visit a doctor as soon as they begin showing symptoms.
Meanwhile, the school district and the county health department are tracing the patient’s steps in order to determine if anyone else is at risk of having the illness. Schools are conducting testing for students, with consent forms from patients. Additional testing will be done in a few weeks.
Officials are suggesting that anyone who may have had contact with the infected person should get evaluated and tested for tuberculosis.
“We want to make sure that our parents, our students, our teachers, and our staff feel safe and that we are taking the precautions with this situation,” said SCSD Superintendent Jaime Alicea.