A child tested positive for active tuberculosis in Riverside County on Thursday.
The child attends Raymond Cree Middle School in Palm Springs and was briefly hospitalized, but is now receiving treatment at home, according to Riverside County officials. The student is expected to survive.
Parents of around 50 students received an email from the Riverside University Health System-Public Health and the Palm Springs Unified School District informing them that their child may have been exposed to the illness.
About 20 staff members who were possibly exposed were also notified.
Another letter informing parents about the TB case is being sent out, but that letter is only informational. The children of parents who receive the informational letter are not considered at risk for exposure, officials note.
A screening clinic for students will be held on April 18 in which parents were encouraged to have their children participate.
Health officials are searching for anyone else who may have been exposed to the student at this time.
While the risk of infection is low, according to Dr. Geoffrey Leung, public health officer for Riverside County, he said it’s important for parents who receive the letter to get their children tested.
“The testing is quick and can provide peace of mind for both parents and children,” said Leung. “Once the test is administered, the child will need to come back in two days to have it read by a health care worker.”
Tuberculosis is an illness that mainly affects the lungs.
“The disease spreads through the air during prolonged, repeated, and close contact with an individual who is infected with active tuberculosis,” officials explained. “Symptoms can include a persistent cough, fever, night sweats and unexplainable weight loss.”
Tuberculosis can be easily spread in places where people gather in crowds or live in crowded conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic. People with weakened immune systems or those with HIV/AIDS have a higher risk of catching tuberculosis than those with typical immune systems.
“In most cases, people infected with the illness won’t see it develop into active tuberculosis but will simply remain infected with the bacteria with no symptoms,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illness will, however, still show up on a skin test.
If the skin test is positive, the student will need to get a chest X-ray and follow up with public health officials to determine if active tuberculosis is present or if they were only exposed to it.
“We are working in collaboration with RUHS-Public Health on notification and screening logistics to ensure that students and staff who may have been exposed receive the information and follow-up guidance in a timely manner,” said PSUSD Director of Health Services Laura Dyson. “We are grateful to have the resources of our county public health department and the officials there who remain the experts in infectious disease information and management.”