More TB cases identified at Olathe Northwest High in Kansas

27 at Kansas High School Test Positive for Tuberculosis
27 at Kansas High School Test Positive for Tuberculosis

OLATHE, Kan. - The state health department says 27 people have tested positive for tuberculosis after one student at Olathe Northwest High School was diagnosed with active TB in early March. Health officials says those infected have no signs of disease so far.

More than 300 students and staff at the high school were tested for TB.

"I had first semester weights with the kids who had it. All first semester I lifted with him," said Trey Espy, a junior who was among those tested.

The Johnson County Health Department says on Monday, it began calling the 27 people who tested positive and letters were mailed to those who didn't. Espy hasn't received a call.

"It is a relief because I am happy I don't have it," he said.

The director of the Johnson County Health Department, Lougene Marsh, says those infected aren't able to spread TB to others because they don't have symptoms such as cough and fever.

"That would certainly indicate that there is no disease present, but in order to rule that out, to rule out disease, the chest x-ray is the next diagnostic step," Marsh said.

Marsh says those infected have been given vouchers for free chest x-rays. Even if x-rays show no disease, they will still need to take antibiotics to prevent their infection from converting to disease.

Olathe Northwest is on spring break, and Marsh says the 27 infected will be able to return to school if no disease is found.

"Because again, no one is symptomatic. So there's no reason for them to alter their normal activities, no reason for them not to return to school next week," she said.

Even though the sick student has not been in school since being diagnosed, Marsh says there still could be more cases of infection. It can take eight to ten weeks for the bacteria to show up in testing, so those who had contact with the student during the spring semester will need to have testing repeated in early May.

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