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Case of tuberculosis detected at Coronado High School

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Updated: 11/12/2013 10:35 pm
LAS VEGAS (Las Vegas Sun) -- The Southern Nevada Health District confirmed a case of tuberculosis at Coronado High School on Tuesday.

Clark County School District officials were informed of the tuberculosis case on Tuesday morning and sent a ParentLink message by Tuesday evening to the families of more than 3,000 students and 100 staff members at the Henderson school.

The letter, from Coronado Principal Mike Piccininni, indicated that “an individual at Coronado High School was diagnosed with an active case of pulmonary tuberculosis.”

School District officials would not disclose the individual’s identity or whether he or she is a student or staff member, citing privacy issues. Officials said, however, that the individual has not been on campus for more than a week.

The case is isolated in nature, and outside of the one confirmed case, no other students or staff has shown any signs or symptoms of tuberculosis, an infectious bacterial disease that typically attacks the lungs and can be lethal.

Tuberculosis is transmitted through the air, when someone with the contagious disease sneezes or coughs near a healthy person. It is not transmitted through surfaces, so school cleaning procedures have not been changed.

The School District is working closely with the Health District’s TB Treatment and Control staff to complete its investigation. Currently, the Health District is identifying students and staff who may have come into contact with the individual who has TB.

By the end of the week, the Health District will notify students and staff who may have been exposed to TB. State law requires that these students and staff be tested for TB before they can return to campus.

Staff and students — with parental knowledge and permission — may be tested at school next week, from Tuesday to Thursday. The test is free; it’s covered by the Health District. Students will not be tested without parental consent; a permission slip will be sent home to affected students.

Parents of all Coronado students are encouraged to see a physician if they feel it is necessary. The mandatory testing does not have to be done at school; a note clearing a student of TB from a family physician or other medical provider will suffice.

The results of those tuberculosis tests will take one to two weeks. Until a student or staff member is confirmed with an active case of tuberculosis, he or she will be allowed on school campuses.

School District officials said these steps were proactive and precautionary to ensure the health of the Coronado community.

“We were informed we had one case of TB and we wanted to make sure we do our due diligence,” School District spokesman Michael Rodriguez said.

The last case of tuberculosis at a Clark County public school was a decade ago. Over the years, there has been a small number of outbreaks of contagious diseases on school campuses, including cases of avian flu several years ago and scabies at Heard Elementary School last year.

The Coronado TB investigation comes on the heels of another investigation at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, where a Las Vegas mother and her twin premature babies died from TB over the summer. The hospital outbreak infected 26 other people.

Health District officials are still trying to contact four families who may have been exposed to TB at the hospital. The initial cause of this particular TB outbreak was linked to bacteria from a dairy product, likely cheese from Central or South America.

Tuberculosis, whose symptoms may remain dormant for a period of time, can be fatal if not properly treated. The Centers for Disease Control reported 569 deaths from TB nationwide in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available. The Health District sees 80 to 100 cases per year in Southern Nevada.

For more information, Coronado students, parents and staff are urged to contact the Health District at (702) 759-1370.

-- Paul Takahashi / Las Vegas Sun
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