The Richmond County Health Department will offer tuberculosis skin tests to selected students and faculty members at Glenn Hills High School after a student there showed signs of the disease.
Department officials visited the school Tuesday to talk to students, staffers and parents about the process, according to spokesman Emmitt L. Walker.
Only those in direct contact with the patient, who is not currently attending school, will be tested initially, Walker said. The days and times for testing have not yet been determined.
“It certainly won’t be the entire student population or the entire faculty population,” Walker said. “Only those in direct contact ... it might also be anyone else that rode the bus with the student.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria that attacks the lungs and can be spread by coughing, sneezing and speaking.
Not all patients who test positive for the tuberculosis bacteria are diagnosed with the disease, according to the CDC. In almost 90 percent of people exposed to tuberculosis, the body recognizes the infection and contains it in the Ghon’s complex of the lung, where it essentially stops.
If the immune system cannot fight the infection, the bacteria can spread to the apex of the lung and the patient can develop tuberculosis. At that point, the disease can be treated with a series of drugs that must be taken consistently.
The initial exam for the disease, a skin test, involves injecting a liquid into the dermal layer of the skin that must be checked 48-hours later for raised bumps.
A chest X-ray is then required to see whether the bacteria spread to the lungs.
Last year, 578 people at Butler High School were tested for tuberculosis after a student showed signs of the disease. Of those, 136 tested positive for the bacteria, and three later were confirmed to have the disease.
Walker said the Butler and now Glenn Hills situations have been the only tuberculosis cases, suspected or confirmed, requiring testing in schools in recent years.