Parents of Catonsville High School students have been informed of a possible case of tuberculosis among the school community, both by phone Wednesday night and in a letter that was sent home with students Thursday afternoon from the school's principal, William Heiser.
"I am writing today to let you know about a medical issue that has affected a member of our school community. This person has been affected with an active case of Tuberculosis, or TB, an infectious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis," the letter signed by Heiser states.
"Officials from the Baltimore County Department of Health informed me of the situation late yesterday and contacted persons believed to have been in close contact with the affected individual," the letter states, adding "we will continue to actively monitor the situation."
The letter follows on the heels of an automated call Wednesday night from Heiser informing parents that other members of the school community, including students, might have been exposed to TB.
The Baltimore County Department of Health released a statement around noon Thursday saying that a confirmed case of tuberculosis has been reported at the school.
"The case is being treated and poses no risk to the community," the statement said. "A small number of individuals who has significant contact with the TB confirmed individual, and need to be tested, have been identified."
These members of the community have been asked to get tested at a county health center at county expense, according to health department Spokeswoman Monique Lyle.
"They can resume work, school or whatver after being tested," she said, adding that test results are usually available within a day or two.
She said the department "would not confirm whether it's a student or a staff member."
In cases like these, the person with TB is interviewed to determine with whom they have been in close contact. That includes immediate family, other relatives with whom they've spent extended periods, such as nannies and grandparents. And it includes communities where that person is likely to spend their day, such as school.
"It's very different in that kind of setting to contract TB," Lyle said. It requires "close, extended contact," she said.
Heiser's letter sent home explains that TB " is a disease [affecting the lungs ] that is spread from person to person through the air ... the bacteria are put into the air when a person with tuberculosis ... coughs, laughs or sings."
Baltimore County Public School spokesman Mychael Dickerson said school personnel would take take steps as advised by health department officials, including informing parents. He called it "a pretty routine set of instructions."
"We take our lead from the county health department," Dickerson said.
Heiser would not comment Thursday morning and referred all calls to Dickerson.
Maryland law requires schools to report cases of 34 communicable diseases including measles, mumps and tuberculosis, according to a document, Communicable Disease Reporting, available on the BCPS website.
In Baltimore County, the school nurse is required to report any suspected cases to the Office of Health Services.
Members of the Catonsville High School community who have questions are asked to call the health department at 410-887-2711.
This story will be updated.