Parents of Watkins Mill High School students received a letter late last week warning them that someone in the building between October and January had tuberculosis, so testing for students might be warranted.
The unidentified person who carried the infectious lung disease was at Watkins Mill High School between October 2013 and January 2014 and is now being treated, WJLA reports. School officials haven’t said if the sick individual is a student or staffer.
The letter to parents says a healthy person cannot contract the disease by casual contact such as sitting in a cafeteria for an hour or passing in the hall. While the risk of exposure is low, public health officials have recommended testing for students and staff members who were in classes or after-school activity during the months in question.
Parents whose students should be tested will be notified by early March, the school’s website says. Nurses from the Montgomery County Public Health Department will be on hand in coming weeks to provide free testing.
Tuberculosis is a contagious illness can affect a person's lungs, brain, kidneys and spine, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It can be fatal and is spread through the air, such as when a person coughs or sneezes. It is treatable with medications.
In 2010, Montgomery County accounted for almost one-third of all the TB cases in the state, WTOP said.
The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services encourages people with symptoms of TB to call the county's TB clinic at 240-777-1794. Symptoms of tuberculosis are: cough for more than 3 weeks; fever or chills for more than three weeks; night sweats; unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more; or if an individual has had tuberculosis or been treated for the disease, or coughs up blood, the department says.