Barton comments on TB concerns
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis/Arlington) issued the following statement on the presence of tuberculosis at Ennis High School:
“I want to applaud state and local leaders for their quick actions once notified about the presence of tuberculosis at Ennis High School. This is still a developing situation so parents need to stay vigilant and be proactive. If the school has notified you that your child may have been exposed – please follow their directions and make sure he or she is tested. Ennis Regional Medical Center, the closest hospital to the high school, is ready to administer the proper exams and make sure children get the necessary treatment and the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) assures me they will provide needed medical care for affected students at no cost.
“My office has been in contact with officials at the local hospitals, the Ennis ISD, the TDSHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and I am personally monitoring this situation.
“I would encourage Texas public health officials to take all appropriate precautions.
“I remain confident that Ellis County leaders and the Texas Department of State Health Services will continue to do everything necessary to keep the kids in Ennis safe and healthy. I stand ready to help if needed.”
Also read this document prepared by the Texas Department of State Health Services:
Tuberculosis Procedures in Ennis
The TB Procedures Being Used in Ennis are Standard Medical Protocols
The procedures that the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is using in Ennis are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These procedures are based on medical evidence and years of experience.
How TB Disease is Spread
TB can be spread when a person with TB bacteria in their lungs coughs, sneezes or talks. It is only moderately infectious and requires prolonged exposure in an enclosed space to spread. For that reason, the most effective procedure is to begin testing with those who have direct contact with a person with active TB. Because the disease is spread under conditions of prolonged exposure in an enclosed space, people with only casual contact or with contact to people who are being skin tested do not need to be tested.
TB Infection and TB Disease
A person with a latent TB infection is not sick, does not have symptoms from TB, and cannot spread it to others, so it is not necessary for people with only a positive skin test and no TB disease symptoms to be excluded from school or work. A person must have active TB disease to spread it. Few people with a latent infection develop the active TB disease. A person with latent TB infection has a 10% chance of getting TB disease in their lifetime.
What a Positive TB Skin Test Means
Because TB is spread under conditions of prolonged, close exposure, testing begins with those in direct contact with a person who has TB disease. A positive skin test does not necessarily mean that an individual has TB disease. A positive skin test indicates that a person has been exposed to tuberculosis and has a latent TB infection.
People with positive skin tests get a chest x-ray to look for pneumonia or a small cavity in the lung that could indicate active TB disease.
As of September 20, 2011, DSHS had tested 182 persons in Ennis ISD who had direct contact with the individual with active TB. 80 persons with positive skin tests were referred for chest x-rays.
Treatment for TB
While tuberculosis is a serious illness, it can be treated and cured by taking a course of medication (antibiotics).
If active TB disease is suspected, public health professionals would take the patient’s history, collect three sputum samples, begin the patient on a course of four medications by directly observed therapy for at least six months to eliminate the disease, begin a new contact investigation, and require the person be excluded from school or work for a period of time until they are considered non-contagious.
For those with latent TB infection, once active TB disease is ruled out, DSHS strongly recommends a course of preventive medication therapy usually lasting nine months to ensure that the bacteria won’t activate and cause TB in the future. People who do not take preventive treatment may develop active disease in the future, infect other people, and prolong TB in the community and among family members in the future.
People with either latent TB infection or active TB disease should take medication completely, as directed by a doctor, to ensure the medication will treat the infection without recurrence and the bacteria won’t become resistant.
How DSHS Will Proceed
DSHS will continue to investigate. DSHS will test those who people are close contacts of any suspect cases. Additional circles or levels of contacts will be added as indicated by CDC.
The state is paying for the testing of those who are close contacts of active or suspect cases. It cannot pay for those who are being tested outside of the CDC recommendations for the safe and cost-effective means of preventing the spread of the disease.
The state is also paying for treatment of those who have been identified as having latent infection, are suspect cases, or are identified as having active TB disease.
TB in Texas and in Ellis County
Texas averages about 1,500 cases of TB disease annually. There were 1,385 cases in 2010 and 1,500 cases in 2009. Ellis County averages three cases per year.
Further Information on TB
The CDC has a comprehensive website at http://www.cdc.gov//TB/. DSHS can be contacted for information at (817) 264-4949 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.