JUPITER, Fla. - The Palm Beach County Department of Health says a student who attended Jupiter Middle School of Technology may have exposed as many as eighteen people to tuberculosis -- after coming down with TB in May.
The department of health says the eighteen people are not contagious and pose no threat.
It says there is no reason for alarm.
Last May the department tested a group of several hundred people who could have come in contact with the student -- classmates, teachers, friends, or family.
All of them tested negative.
So it re-tested about half of them last month.
Of the hundred sixty-six people it tested -- eighteen tested positive for having the TB bacteria -- not the disease itself. To put this into further context -- sixty or so cases of tuberculosis are diagnosed in the county every year.
At this point, the department of health says it can't say for sure if the eighteen people were exposed because of the student -- or because of someone else.
It says the odds are these eighteen people may never get sick.
"There really isn't alarm. We have to do our diligence when we find what we call an index case, a person who has tuberculosis disease. This is, in this particular instance, we had an ongoing investigation since last May. We do secondary testing even just to see if there's a conversion that may have occurred so we can relate it back to something here in the United States or Palm Beach County," said Palm Beach County Health Department Spokesman Tim O'Connor
TB is spread through the air from one person to another.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
Symptoms of TB disease include: a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum, weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever and night sweats.
Angie Fajardo contributed to this report