A student at a high school in Olathe, Kansas, has been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB). The unidentified student is receiving treatment at an isolated location following protocols, reports said.
Tuberculosis is a serious infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis that typically affects the lungs. There were 8,300 TB cases reported in the U.S. last year.
Health officials are working with the school district to identify people who had close contact with the infected student and have set up tuberculosis testing clinics.
“We want to make sure that we don’t miss anyone. And so right now, we have approximately 425 people that have been identified,” Charlie Hunt, director of the Johnson County Department of Health, said.
Types of TB
There are two types of TB depending on the area in which the infection affects the body:
1. Pulmonary tuberculosis – a more common type of TB infection that affects the lungs.
2. Extrapulmonary tuberculosis – the type of infection that affects the brain, liver, central nervous system, lymph nodes, genitourinary tract, skin, joints and bones.
Not everyone who contracts the tuberculosis-causing bacteria develops symptoms. Active tuberculosis is when a person develops symptoms, and the infection is contagious. The condition is latent when there are no symptoms and the infection is not contagious, even after the person contracts the bacteria. Some people may have latent tuberculosis for a lifetime, but in some cases, the condition may progress to active tuberculosis when the immunity is weak.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5 to 10% of latent TB infections progress to active disease if they do not receive treatment. If a person with active TB disease is not treated properly, it can turn fatal.
Signs of TB
The symptoms depend on the area of the body that it affects. Fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, chills and fever and night sweats are some of the signs of an active TB when it affects outside the lungs. When the infection is pulmonary, the patient may also show signs such as persistent cough, chest pain and coughing up blood or sputum.
Risk factors and complications
People who are in close contact with a tuberculosis case and those with weakened immunity due to medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, kidney disease, and organ transplant, are at a heightened risk. Children below the age of five, people who have tested positive for latent TB and people living or traveling in a country where TB is common are also at high risk.
How does TB spread?
The infection normally spreads when the patient is affected in the lungs or throat. It is not contagious when tuberculosis affects areas like the kidney or spine.
The disease-causing bacteria spread through the air when the infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Casual contact with the infected patient such as handshaking, sharing food or drink, sharing toilet and touching surfaces do not lead to the spread of the infection.
Washing hands, wearing masks when you are around the infected person and covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing can prevent the spread. In countries where the infection is common, the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is administered to infants to prevent the infection. However, the use of BCG is not common in the U.S. as it does not always protect people from contracting TB.