A Pinellas County school worker with an active case of tuberculosis may have exposed about 100 people to the disease, health officials confirmed Friday afternoon.
Those identified people were sent letters today from the Pinellas County Health Department.
They are being told to get tested for TB, officials said at a press conference at the Pinellas County Health Department in St. Petersburg.
The most recent exposure took place in late June, though the worker had contact with the same individuals for six months prior to that, health officials said.
Dr. Claude Dharamraj, director of the Pinellas County Health Department, emphasized that there is no TB outbreak or reason for alarm.
“We are just investigating one case, in one school,” Dharamraj said. There is “no outbreak and no panic.”
The health department also is offering free TB testing to any Pinellas County school student or staff member, regardless of whether he or she was exposed to the virus. (See TB test locations below.)
The adult school employee with the active TB case will not be identified to protect patient confidentiality.
The employee's school and the city where it is located also will not be named.
The Health Department will only release the school’s name to the media, if it has trouble reaching people who came into frequent contact with this worker.
Once a person has an active case of TB, Dharamraj said the airborne disease needs a lot of contact and time to spread. It would take several hours over the course of several days and weeks to contract it.
Of those diagnosed with TB germs, around 25 percent generally become active TB, according to Pat Ryder, an assistant director at the Health Department.
Since the letters went out today, no one knows how many people who were exposed may test positive for the disease.
The fact that letters were sent out and media notified mean TB has spread to individuals close to the original person. But Dharamraj said relatives and family members are the first tested when an individual is diagnosed. If one of the family members tests positive, then co-workers and friends are notified.
In recent years the number of cases across the U.S., Florida and Pinellas County have fallen sharply. In 2010, 33 cases were reported in Pinellas, 26 in 2011 and only 10 so far this year. TB cases, Dharamraj said, are very treatable with medicine.
She added that there is nothing to suspect that this case of TB is related to other TB cases in the news, such as the TB outbreak in Jacksonville or a case reported this week at MacDill Air Force Bae.
Symptoms of TB may include feeling weak, unexpected weight loss, fever and/or night sweats. Symptoms of TB in the lungs may also included prolonged coughing, chest pain and/or coughing up blood.
The Health Department said it usually takes two to 10 weeks after exposure to a person with TB disease for the skin test to react positively.
The Pinellas County Health Department will provide TB testing at no charge to students and staff starting on Monday, July 30.
- St. Petersburg Center, 205 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, 824-6900
- Pinellas Park Center, 6350 76th Ave. N. 547-7780
- Mid County Office, 8751 Ulmerton Rd. 524-4410
- Largo Center, 12420 130th Ave. N. 588-4040
- Tarpon Springs Center, 301 South Disston Ave. 942-5457