Testing underway at NC school after student hospitalized with TB

Health Alert

LUMBERTON, N.C. (WNCN) — Tuberculosis testing is underway at a Robeson County school after a student was hospitalized with TB.

The Robeson County Department of Public Health sent a letter to parents of Lumberton Junior High School students Monday letting them know about the testing and possible exposure.

Tracy Jones, an epidemiology nurse with the health department, says about 200 people, which is a quarter of the school, will be tested next Tuesday.

“It’s very important that we test these people, but it’s not an emergency,” Jones said, adding she’s been receiving a lot of calls from worried parents.  

Jones says there’s no ongoing risk at the school.

“We are trying to make sure it’s very organized, that we are very thorough with who we are testing,” Jones said. “We wanted parents to have time to ask questions to understand the process instead of just sending a letter out and then the next day being there to do testing.”

A positive test doesn’t necessarily mean the person is sick with TB, Tracy said. But if they do test positive, they’ll need a chest x-ray to make sure it’s not in their lungs.

There are about 16 to 20 TB cases every year in Robeson County, Jones said.

“This is something that we are very familiar with as far as doing contact investigations and following up on TB patients,” she said.

Generally, the disease develops over weeks to months and is curable with medication, Jones said.

Symptoms include excessive coughing, weight loss and fatigue.

There isn’t a vaccine for tuberculosis.

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