Sardis students warned about TB risk

A student at Sardis secondary has been diagnosed with infectious tuberculosis.

A student at Sardis secondary has been diagnosed with infectious tuberculosis.

Last week, a letter from the Fraser Health Authority was sent home with students notifying the community of the active tuberculosis (TB) case in the school.

The letter was also posted to the school’s website.

Tuberculosis is an infection of the lungs, that can develop into a disease. When the disease is active, TB germs attack the lungs and grow, causing damage. It is during this active stage when the infection is spread through the air by coughing or sneezing.

The infected student, who is a part-time student, is being treated in isolation until no longer contagious.

Not all staff and students at Sardis secondary are at risk, said Dr. Nadine Loewen, medical health officer with the Fraser Health Authority.

Casual contact with an infected person in common areas such as the library or cafeteria is not considered to pose a risk, nor is sharing clothing, dishes or drinks.

However, more intimate contact, including prolonged hours in a classroom, are considered a risk.

Skin screening tests will take place at the school during the week of Nov. 14 for staff and students identified as high risk.

“For people who don’t have symptoms, and who have been exposed to TB, it usually takes between three to eight weeks before a skin test will provide evidence on whether or not they have been exposed,” said Loewen.

“The skin test is only for people who have been identified as contacts and who show no symptoms. If you had symptoms, and you had been exposed to TB, you would be immediately investigated. There would be no delay at all.”

Tuberculosis symptoms include a persistent cough, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, night sweats, or chills.

Any individual with symptoms consistent with TB are encouraged to see a physician for assessment.

An infected person is treated in isolation with medication and is monitored by TB Control Clinics. When they are determined no longer infectious, they are taken out of isolation, but continue on with medication for six to nine months after, depending on the circumstance.

“Because TB is nestled way inside your body, it takes a length of time to get rid of it,” said Loewen.

In B.C., there are over 100 acute cases of tuberculosis every year.

For more information, contact the Chilliwack Health Unit at 604-702-4900 or HealthLink BC at 811.

kbartel@theprogress.com