Hephzibah, GA -
Health department officials informed parents at Hephzibah Comprehensive High School that their children might have been exposed to tuberculosis.That meeting was held at a tax payer funded and undoubtedly public facility, but when local media arrived, the health department informed them that all cameras needed to be removed before the meeting started.
There have been three other Richmond County high schools that already had to deal with TB cases and testing within the last two years. Those schools are AR Johnson, Glenn Hills, and Butler.
While Richmond County School System gave WJBF the location and time of the meeting with parents, East Central Health District was in charge.The woman running the meeting stated she would not start until all cameras were removed, stating she didn’t want to ‘scare the community just because we wanted ratings.’A spokesperson with the heath department told News Channel 6’s Renetta DuBose that the disease can be fatal.
“It was eye opening to know that I’m on a list for possibly having TB,” said Stevie Mason.
Mason, a Hephzibah Comprehensive High School senior said she is one of a several students hand selected by the East Central Health District to be tested soon for tuberculosis.The infectious disease, which can be fatal, causes fever, body aches and a few other symptoms.
“The only thing I’ve really been having are the night sweats and a slight cough.That could be from the weather change,” Mason guessed.
Health officials conducted a meeting with parents. We were told we had to leave our camera outside.Inside, one staff member informed parents that not every student would be tested, only those students who were exposed to the infectious disease through the individual who tested positive. Emmitt Larry Walker, Public Relations Information Coordinator for East Central Health District, confirmed it was a student.
He said, “This student presented TB like symptoms to their physician and their physician contacted public health.”
Walker said TB is spread through the air and the bacteria can remain in an area for several hours.He said that means students in a classroom for several hours and days may have been exposed.One parent, who said her children are not on the list to be tested for TB, isn’t so sure the testing should be limited to the infected person’s class schedule.
“Within the hospitals, whenever we have someone that’s on an airborne precaution, usually they’re in a negative pressure room. What that is is the ventilation system is contained within itself.It does not go into a general population.It stays within and is vented out within the hospital.So that is my concern here,” said Denise Sims, a parent.
Parents had valid concerns.One concern was if the health department knew of the TB case before spring break and their child was exposed, what about relatives out of town who could also be exposed?The health department assured that parent that everyone, even if out of state, would be contacted and so would the health department in their area. There are other variables parents discussed like students on the same school buses as the student who tested positive and individuals in the mall or any other place the students who were exposed may have visited.The health department affirmed all parties would be contacted.
Testing takes place Monday at the school with a reading of those tests next Wednesday.
Parents can also take their children to the health department on their own for testing.