The Pinellas County Public Health Department is trying to locate about 100 students and co-workers who had contact with a Pinellas public school employee diagnosed with tuberculosis.
"The last known exposure occurred toward the end of June," surveillance program manager Andrea Castillo told reporters, adding the infected person might have been contagious for five or six months before being diagnosed.
Castillo also said some of those closest to the victim, such as family members, have tested positive for carrying the TB bacteria, although none have developed the disease.
But those tests suggest the contagion was strong enough that the next-closest individuals should also be checked.
"If we have some individuals who are positive, that doesn't mean they have the active TB disease, but that they were infected" Castillo explained. "We offer medication to prevent that person from becoming sick in the future."
Citing a concern for patient privacy, public health officials declined to identify the school where the contagious person works. One did say the exposed students are adolescents, so presumably it is a middle or high school.
Letters were sent to all employees and parents at the unidentified school Wednesday. A second letter is on the way to the 100 people with prolonged contact to the carrier.
Castillo also said there are no lingering dangers at the school building.
"There is absolutely no risk at the school because the TB bacteria does not live on surfaces for a long period of time," she said. "The transmission is airborne, person-to-person contact."
Pinellas Public Health Director Claude Dharamraj called the isolated case "routine", but noted recent public attention to a tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville.
"There is no TB outbreak in Pinellas County," Dr. Dharamraj said. "I have no reason to believe that it is in the connection with the same strain that the one from Jacksonville."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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