Contagious TB patient ordered to medical lockdown
By MEG KINNARDAssociated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The original patient to whom health officials say dozens of South Carolina tuberculosis cases can be traced has been ordered to a medical lockdown facility until the infection passes.
Department of Health and Environmental Control director Catherine Templeton says in an emergency order issued Thursday that the patient hasn't been cooperative and is a public health threat.
The person hasn't been identified, but Templeton has said dozens of positive tuberculosis tests can be traced to an employee at Ninety Six Primary School.
So far, DHEC says 63 employees and students had positive skin tests for tuberculosis exposure. Of those cases, 11 people have developed tuberculosis but aren't contagious.
A second school employee is contagious, and DHEC is investigating how many people had contact with that person.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
A second Greenwood County school employee has an active case of tuberculosis in an outbreak that has infected several dozen people, according to state health officials.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control said Wednesday that the second worker at Ninety Six Primary School had been ordered to be confined at home after a chest X-ray showed the person had an active case of tuberculosis and is contagious.
Earlier this week, DHEC director Catherine Templeton said 58 employees and students had a positive skin test for tuberculosis exposure at the school, where students' last day of classes was Tuesday. Of those cases, eight students currently had developed the disease but were not contagious.
On Wednesday, DHEC revised those numbers to 62 positive skin tests and a total of 10 people with tuberculosis.
The original infected person to whom officials traced all of those subsequent cases was a school employee and hasn't cooperated with investigators, Templeton said Tuesday, adding that the person would be quarantined at home until he or she is no longer infectious.
Templeton said DHEC learned about the case in March after being contacted by a private physician. Since then, DHEC has contacted people who had been in touch with that person and has tested a total of 536 employees and students.
Anyone who would have been infected by this patient would have contracted tuberculosis likely in January or February, she said.
Not everyone who has the bacteria that causes tuberculosis becomes sick. The bacteria are spread through the air and often attack the lungs, causing a bad cough in those who get infected. The disease can be fatal if not treated.
On Wednesday, DHEC said it had begun offering testing to anyone who had recently spent time inside any buildings on the school's campus and recommended that anyone who had specifically been inside classroom buildings - which have lower ceilings and narrower hallways than spaces like the gym - where the tuberculosis germ might spread more easily.
DHEC officials are investigating how many people had contact with the second person, and it wasn't immediately clear how many cases could potentially be traced back to that employee. Those who are infected or exposed will be given free medications for six to nine months, according to DHEC.
Last month, Templeton said several DHEC employees had been fired because they weren't moving fast enough on the developing case. That news came last week as parents of children at the school met with health officials and voiced concern over not having been notified sooner that tuberculosis could be a concern for their children.
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