Parents concerned about tuberculosis at North Bay high school

Health officials in Solano County now say the number of individuals to be tuberculosis-tested at a Fairfield school is closer to 300, than 200.

"We are casting a wide net," said Deputy Health Officer and TB Controller Dr. Michael Stacey, at a community forum Tuesday night.  

A few dozen families from Armijo High School came to the gymnasium to learn about TB, now that an active case has been diagnosed on campus.

"We will be offering a day of testing, here in the gym next Wednesday, March 1," explained Dr. Stacey in his presentation, " and we're  only blood- testing those individuals that came in regular contact."  

Parents had questions: how long did the person with active tuberculosis come to school?

At least a week, they were told. And how did the patient contract TB?

"We don't know when or where they were infected," replied Dr. Stacey.

The lack of detail was unsettling for some parents.

"Obviously it's an airborne disease, and I'd like to know if my son is one of the ones who was exposed in class," Lia Raymos told KTVU. "There's a bunch of things going through my mind. Does he need to be tested?"

Tuberculosis is a serious bacterial disease that attacks the lungs but is treatable with antibiotics.

A latent infection has no symptoms and isn't contagious. It is more readily treated than active TB, which can be complicated to cure and must be closely monitored.

The unidentified patient from Armijo High is recovering at home, in isolation.
"With active disease, we have someone from public health watch them take their medicine every day," observed Dr. Stacey, " to make sure they take it, for their own protection and the wider community."

One dad told KTVU he came to the meeting, because he knows his sophomore daughter isn't taking the TB threat too seriously.

"Just because you're young and think you know it all, it's best to know more," he said.

"We're also concerned because we have three other kids at home. So we don't want our daughter to get infected and spread it through the household."

Parents were told, chances of infection are low, but the number of contacts to be tested has jumped from the original 200 estimate to 270.

Letters to those individuals were mailed Tuesday.

Some parents are frustrated with the pace of information.

The patient was diagnosed Feb. 7, and the announcement came on Feb. 16.

Families are still waiting to learn who actually needs testing:

"How can this be safe when we don't know who the person is?," posed parent Felicia Brown.

 "And we still have to wait for a letter in the mail to find out if our child was even around it?

Some parents, impatient with the process, are taking their teens to their own doctor.

"We're going to make an appointment and have him tested right away," Anthony Raymos said of his son, a junior and athlete.

"Why not? I say it's better to be safe than sorry."

Administrators understand parent's fears, but explain the TB response is dictated by the Health Department, not the school district.

"Oh absolutely, I understand anxiety anytime something like this comes up," Fairfield Suisun School Superintendent Kris Corey told KTVU.

"This causes a lot of angst for parents and the community."

Anyone who tests positive next week will receive a phone call within five days of the test. A negative result will be communicated by letter. The initial tests March 1 will be followed up by another round of blood work two months later, because it can take time for TB to show-up and a second round of testing will catch what the first one may miss.