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VIDEO: 8 cases of TB in Grand Forks County, officials say

GRAND FORKS - Eight cases of active tuberculosis, including a student at Phoenix Elementary School here, have been diagnosed in Grand Forks County, public health officials said Friday.

GRAND FORKS - Eight cases of active tuberculosis, including a student at Phoenix Elementary School here, have been diagnosed in Grand Forks County, public health officials said Friday.

The cases involve six adults and two children younger than 10. Three of the adults are in their 20s, while the other three are in their 40s.

The Phoenix Elementary case, which was confirmed Tuesday, is related to three others that were confirmed in the county last month. Since then, more than 250 people have been tested in the county.

In late October, when the first three cases were reported, the number of tuberculosis cases in all of North Dakota was 14.

Anne Hersch, tuberculosis coordinator at Fargo Cass Public Health, said there are no current cases in Cass County.

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"Although that is fluid - it can always change," she said.

Hersch said there is an average of 10 to 12 cases identified across the state each year.

There is no extra testing happening in the area.

"I'd say we're just doing business as usual. We're always alert for potential to disease," Hersch said.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a potentially lethal infection that usually attacks the lungs but also can affect the kidneys, spine and brain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can spread through coughing, sneezing or speaking.

Local and state officials will conduct 25 to 30 additional screenings Tuesday at Phoenix Elementary and will return to get results Thursday. The school had 241 enrolled students at the start of fall.

"Our goal in this TB outbreak is to make sure people are safe, and that we stop the spread of the disease," said Don Shields, Grand Forks Public Health director.

All people being tested at the school have had close contact with the infected student, officials said.

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"It takes close contact and time to obtain a large enough dose of TB germ to become positive for active tuberculosis," Shields said.

While all cases are different, it's typical for infected students to stay home for about 30 days. School officials said education continues, however, with instruction provided at the students' homes.

"The risk in the school district is not high, but it is not zero," said Dr. Eric Lunn, local health officer and a Grand Forks School District board member.

"Because we have eight active cases of TB in Grand Forks County, we do expect to find more cases," Shields said. "We do expect that to continue over the next several months, and possibly longer."

Forum reporter Wendy Reuer contributed to this report

Kevin Bonham writes for the Grand Forks Herald

Related Topics: HEALTH
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