A student at Watkins Mill High School in Montgomery County has active tuberculosis and parents were told Feb. 6 in a letter that some other staff and students will be tested for the disease, though the risk of transmission is small.
The letter from school and health officials told parents that the infected student is being treated and there is no additional risk of exposure. Those who need to be tested had classes with the infected student or an after-school activity between October and January. Those who only passed in the hallway or ate lunch nearby will not be tested because it usually takes eight hours or more of close contact for transmission.
Tuberculosis is caused by germs spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or sings, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It usually affects the lungs. Symptoms include feelings of sickness, weight loss, fever and night sweats, the CDC reports.
Tests at Watkins Mill will not take place until early March because results are not accurate until eight to 10 weeks after exposure.
The CDC reports that there were less than 10,000 cases reported nationwide in the United States in 2012, the latest data available. There were 224 cases in Maryland that year, according to state health data.
"There isn't a school system that doesn't have to deal with this once in a while," said Dana Tofig, a spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools. "As the health department says, the risk of this being transmitted to another person is low, but it's there so we have to all necessary precautions."