SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A tuberculosis case in the Syracuse City School District has the attention of public health officials, who are advising that the disease does not rapidly spread, and is treatable and curable.
Because of HIPAA privacy regulations, the only information about the infected individual is that they are affiliated with the Public Service Leadership Academy at Fowler High School. The person has apparently been sick for several weeks, and in and out of school, and eventually hospitalized and tested. That's when the Onondaga County Health department and school district were notified.
Tuberculosis is an airborne illness and symptoms of the active disease include persistent coughing and night sweats. While anyone can contract the disease after exposure to an active TB case, the health department is not concerned about a spike in cases. They say someone would have to, for hours, share the same poorly-ventilated air space as the patient.
"You have to be near the person who coughs out or sneezes out some bacterium of TB to be at risk," said Dr. Quoc Nguyen. "So, even if you are in the same cafeteria with this person, eating your lunch, your risk is almost zero, because you are not in there long enough, nor the air confined enough for you to be worried."
"We want to make sure that our parents, our students, our teachers, and our staff feel safe and that we are taking the precautions with this situation," said SCSD Superintendent Jaime Alicea.
The health department is meanwhile tracing the patient's steps back to determine who if anyone inside or outside the school community is at risk. Testing will take place this Friday at the school, with consent forms sent out to parents. Those results should come back in two to three days, with a second round of testing in eight to 12 weeks.