Expanded TB testing urged after Fairfax County school cases

WASHINGTON – Students, faculty and staff at a Fairfax County high school are being asked to get tested for tuberculosis in an expanded move prompted by three active cases of the disease.

About 1,900 people who worked at or went to Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Va., during the 2012-2013 school year have been sent letters advising them to get tested for TB. That number includes 20 people who may have been exposed while spending significant time at the school but may not have worked or attended classes there.

County health officials say there’s no evidence of ongoing transmission of TB at the high school and most of the school community was not at high risk of being exposed to the disease, but the tests are urged as a precaution. The expansion is based in part on a higher-than-expected positivity rate among those who have undergone skin tests so far, according Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu.

She said that among American-born people tested so far in this investigation, there was a 5 percent positive for latent tuberculosis, 4 percent higher than the national average. Among the foreign-born people tested, the rate was about the national average, she said.

Addo-Ayensu said later Monday in a statement that “there is no reason to restrict activities or attendance at Lee High School because of the expansion. All activities at the school can continue as usual and Lee High School students who are undergoing testing can continue to participate in all activities.”

Health officials last month asked 430 people who potentially were exposed to the disease to get tested.

Only those who get a letter need to get the test and can do so at clinics held at the school and listed below:

  • Skin Test: Saturday, Aug. 3, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
    Return for Results: Monday, Aug. 5, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Skin Test: Saturday, Aug. 3, 12 – 6 p.m.
    Return for Results: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • Skin Test: Monday, Aug. 5, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
    Return for Results: Wednesday, Aug. 7, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Skin Test: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
    Return for Skin Test: Thursday, Aug. 8, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Skin Test: Saturday, Aug. 10, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.

    Return for Results: Monday, Aug. 12, 12 – 4 p.m.

Tuberculosis is slow to develop and can be cured if detected early. See symptoms of those with a TB infection and those with a latent TB infection below. The CDC says those with latent TB infection do not feel sick or have symptoms. They are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis but do not have TB disease.

The Difference between Latent TB Infection (LTBI) and TB Disease

WTOP’s Hank Silverberg contributed to this report. Follow @hsilverbergwtop and @WTOP on Twitter.

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