HOUSTON - Students and teachers at Bellaire High School have been warned that someone at their school has tuberculosis.
Principal Michael McDonough sent home letters to parents on Monday. The letters said an individual at the school was being evaluated and treated for a suspected case of tuberculosis. The person was recovering and feeling better, according to the letter.
District officials said Tuesday that the patient contracted the disease over the summer and has not returned to school. HISD officials described it as a case of "active TB that has been under investigation since mid-summer."
"I kind of want to know who got it so I can know if I should get tested," student Anna Buczek said.
There were no others on campus with symptoms of TB, but the school and the Houston Health Department contacted anyone who may have been exposed.
"We don't typically expect to see transmission in a school setting because the rooms are very large," said Kathy Barton of the city of Houston's health department. "Simply passing someone in the hallway or being the same classroom is generally not sufficient for transmission."
According to the letter, "Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that can be contagious if it becomes an active disease. However, it is a difficult disease to catch because it is only spread through the air and the environmental conditions need to be just right. Casual contact is generally not sufficient for transmission of the TB bacteria."
The letter said any student who had close contact with the sick individual will be sent a second letter. Barton said those letters will be sent to about 20 people and it will include a consent form for formal testing.
Symptoms of TB include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, chest pain, coughing up blood, weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever and sweating at night.
Parents and students are worried about the possible TB case.
"I think they should quarantine the place and let the parents know if the students can stay home. That's not a joke," parent Sharon Yasin said.
"I did read the letter and I was kind of confused and scared at the same time because it's a life-threatening disease," student Jewan Burns said.
"I was pretty scared. I didn't want to catch it or anything," student Ben Barnes said.
On Thursday at 6 p.m., the Houston Health Department is expected on the campus at 5100 Maple. Officials will meet with parents in the Science Conference Center to give a presentation about TB and answer any questions.
For more information on tuberculosis, visit www.cdc.gov/tb/.
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