Health Department: 7 kids, 1 adult positive for tuberculosis

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Seven children and an adult from the Charlotte Central School have tested positive for tuberculosis and will be given antibiotics for nine months to ensure they do not get sick with the disease that usually attacks the lungs, Vermont Health Department officials said Friday.

The positive test results came after health officials tested 150 people, 132 of them children, at the Charlotte school after an adult affiliated with both locations developed active tuberculosis. A number of additional tests were conducted at a Colchester day care, but all came back negative.

No one who tested positive has developed tuberculosis, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen and state epidemiologist Patsy Kelso said during a Friday news conference.

Tuberculosis cannot be spread until someone who is infected gets sick, they said.

"As far as we're concerned there is no danger at the school and no danger to the students and adult who have tested positive at this point," Chen said.

"We've told the parents in the community this," Kelso said. "People in the Charlotte school community should have a higher index of suspicion for cough illness, especially cough illness that doesn't resolve after several weeks."

Health officials plan to test about 260 more students at the school and retest the people already tested in eight to 10 weeks.

"We wouldn't be at all surprised if we found some additional positives in that second round," Kelso said.

Every year Vermont Health officials deal with a handful of TB cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there were 9,582 cases of TB reported in the United States with about five percent of those among children less than 15 years of age.

Earlier this month Chen and Kelso announced that the school worker had gotten sick with TB and that they were testing students and staff believed to have had the closest contact with the infected person.

Citing privacy rules, neither Chen nor Kelso would provide an update on the health of the person found to have active tuberculosis. They don't know how the person became sick.

"We often never know where an individual acquired TB because it is often decades, or at least years, before they became sick," Kelso said.

Over the centuries TB has killed millions, but it was largely eliminated through the use of antibiotics, in recent years it has seen a resurgence in places with antibiotic-resistant strains of TB. But Kelso said it appears that the strain of TB contracted by the Charlotte school employee can be treated with antibiotics.

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