- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — Some students and staff members at Meade High School had chest X-rays and have begun a nine-month regimen of daily antibiotics after testing positive for the tuberculosis bacteria.

The 34 students and 10 staff members had chest X-rays and were tested after a student was diagnosed with the active form of the disease. Anne Arundel County health officials believe none of the 44 cases is active tuberculosis, the contagious disease that was one of America’s deadliest in the early 1900s, said department spokeswoman Elin Jones.

Sohail Qarni, medical consultant for the county health department, said doctors are performing exams, taking chest X-rays, and treating students and teachers with isoniazid, an antibiotic used to cure TB.

Health officials said none of the patients is suffering symptoms of tuberculosis — coughing, chest pain, weakness, chills, fever or weight loss.

County nurses gave TB tests last week to 762 students, teachers and staff members at Meade High after a 16-year-old boy at the school was diagnosed with active TB. Earlier tests of an additional 267 persons, who had face-to-face contact with him, found 34 infected with the bacteria.

The county now is reviewing tests from private doctors who screened students as well, Miss Jones said.

A total of 78 students, teachers and staff members are now taking isoniazid daily.

All of those taking isoniazid will be seen monthly by county nurses, who will examine them to make sure they have not developed the active form of the disease.

During the visit, the patients will get their next month’s supply of the antibiotic, Mr. Qarni said. Because the medication sometimes causes patients to feel tired, doctors are recommending it be taken at bedtime, he said.

For teachers and staff members over 35, nurses will conduct regular tests of their liver, because isoniazid also can impair liver function, Mr. Qarni said.

“We monitor them very closely, regardless of their age,” he said.

Health officials now believe about 175 students at the school are yet to be tested for TB. Most of those are seniors who graduated before last week’s testing at the school began, Mr. Qarni said.

The infected boy, who is not being identified, was diagnosed in February, he said. In March and April, county nurses tested 267 students and teachers known to have had close contact with the boy, Mr. Qarni said.

When 34 tested positive for latent TB, school officials sent letters to about 1,200 students and their parents, urging them to take TB tests at school or with their private doctors.

TB is a significant public health problem in developing nations, with China and India accounting for about a third of all cases worldwide.

In 1904, 188 of every 100,000 Americans with tuberculosis died from the disease. By 2000, the death rate had dropped to 0.3 per 100,000.

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