Tuberculosis: Jupiter Middle School student diagnosed with TB

JUPITER, Fla. - A student at Jupiter Middle School of Technology has been diagnosed with tuberculosis and the Palm Beach County Health Department has undergone an extensive investigation, including testing all those who could have come in contact with the student, said Tim O'Connor, spokesman for the county health department.

Family members, students, teachers, school administrators and others have been tested since the child was diagnosed with the disease around May 29, O'Connor said.

He said three other members of the family were found to be infected. In addition, of the approximately 300 people that have been tested, just under 10 percent tested positive for exposure to TB.

"Those who tested positive for exposure will be tested again around the start of the school year in August," O'Connor said.

He said that of those who tested positive for exposure, only 10 percent or less will contract the disease.

Around 60 cases of tuberculosis are diagnosed in Palm Beach County each year. During the first quarter of 2013, 14 people have been diagnosed with the disease, O'Connor said.

Children are no longer required to be vaccinated against tuberculosis or to be tested for TB at the beginning of the school year, O'Connor said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, before the advent of antibiotics, tuberculosis was a leading cause of death in the United States. The disease is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis that usually attacks the lungs. TB bacteria, however, can attack any part of the body such as the kidneys, spine and brain.

TB is spread through the air from one person to another.  The TB bacteria can be spread when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, according to the CDC.

With treatment, however, "TB is treatable and curable," O'Connor said.

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