1,800 being tested for TB at California school

A doctor administers a shot to a young girl. A new tuberculosis vaccine failed in its efficacy trial, with only a 17 percent effectiveness rate. It was the first trial of a TB vaccine since 1921.
A doctor administers a shot to a young girl. A new tuberculosis vaccine failed in its efficacy trial, with only a 17 percent effectiveness rate. It was the first trial of a TB vaccine since 1921. Scott Ableman/Flickr Creative Commons

About 1,800 students and staff at a Southern California high school were expected to be tested for tuberculosis Friday after one student was diagnosed with the bacterial infection last month.

Riverside County health officials already tested more than 130 students at Indio High School earlier this week, and 45 tested positive for possible exposure. Five students were sent home Thursday after follow-up X-rays showed they needed further examination.

Officials stressed they do not think the infection has spread to any other schools or surrounding neighborhoods. Health officials also said they don't believe students' families are at risk.

"We have seen these things happen in other parts of the state and the world. We know how to treat them, and how to cure this disease," Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit told the Desert Sun. "And not everyone who tests positive is going to have a serious bout with this disease."

Officials said any student who skips the test won't be allowed to return to school in January until they are checked out.

Tuberculosis is a contagious disease that typically attacks the lungs. General symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats. A person needs to spend an extended time close to someone who has the disease in order to become infected.

Treatment for tuberculosis involves taking medications, in some cases for up to nine months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease was brought to the high school by a student who was there from September until mid-November. The student, who has not been identified by authorities, is expected to make a full recovery.

Noemi Munoz said her son is one of the 45 students who showed signs of exposure. She questioned if health officials could have acted more quickly and given students tests.

"I feel like it should have been done before Thanksgiving break, when we were all first notified," she said. "I think that would have contained it a little bit better."

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