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Published January 14, 2011, 12:00 AM

West Fargo student may have active TB

75 others at Sheyenne could be tested
A student at West Fargo’s Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center may have active tuberculosis and about 75 other students who possibly were in close contact with him may need to be tested for the disease, the health officer for Fargo Cass Public Health said Thursday.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

A student at West Fargo’s Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center may have active tuberculosis and about 75 other students who possibly were in close contact with him may need to be tested for the disease, the health officer for Fargo Cass Public Health said Thursday.

Dr. John Baird said further tests are being done on the youth identified as possibly having active tuberculosis. He said results of tests to verify the initial diagnosis will be known in three days to a week.

Until then, the diagnosis of TB is “presumptive.”

Baird said the initial diagnosis was made by a private medical provider.

He said the student had only been at school about a week – following the holiday break – so exposure was relatively short.

Public Health is investigating who may have been in contact with the student.

Letters were sent home Thursday with about 75 students who may need to be evaluated for TB, Baird said. The letters explain their exposure risk and testing information.

Baird said Public Health will probably evaluate the students with a tuberculin skin test. The test will be read 48 hours after it is administered, he said.

A follow-up test will be done in eight to 10 weeks, he said.

“This was a little more unusual because we’re having to notify the parents of so many students that we potentially may have to evaluate,” Baird said.

Principal Greg Grooters said testing will start next week.

“We’re taking all of our cues from Fargo Cass Public Health,” Grooters said. “They are saying which students should be tested. We will be testing anyone that student came into contact with.”

Grooters said the rest of the school’s students, another 440 to 450, should be fine.

“If the student did not bring a letter home, they were not exposed,” he said.

An attempt to contact Superintendent David Flowers for comment was not successful.

Tuberculosis is a disease that health providers must report, Baird said. The area sees three to 10 cases a year, he said.

“We used to have lots of it in the state and the country,” Baird said. “It’s still quite prevalent worldwide. It’s estimated a third of the world’s population” is infected with tuberculosis, though not the active disease, he said.

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by germs spread from person to person through the air. General symptoms include feelings of sickness or weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats, Public Health said in a statement

The symptoms of tuberculosis in the lungs also include coughing, chest pain and coughing up blood, Public Health said.

Tuberculosis is contracted through frequent or prolonged exposure, such as sitting in a small room or confined area for a long period of time, with someone with active tuberculosis, Public Health said.

While TB typically affects the lungs, it can also affect the bones and organs, such as kidneys, the brain and lymph nodes, Baird said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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