Student tests positive for inactive tuberculosis bacteria at Centennial High School

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The St. Lucie County Health Department announced late Friday afternoon a Centennial High School student tested positive for having inactive tuberculosis bacteria, but health officials said the student is not contagious and continues to attend the school.

On Sept. 25, the health department announced a separate student at St. Lucie West Centennial High School had been diagnosed with an active, contagious tuberculosis infection. At the time, the county department had launched an investigation into which students and staff had contact with the infected student. The first student with the active infection is not attending the school.

St. Lucie County Health Department Administrator Larry Lee said not every person tested positive for having inactive tuberculosis bacteria becomes sick. He stressed that a person with latent inactive tuberculosis bacteria is not contagious to others until they actually develop an active case of the tuberculosis infection.

"There is no reason to exclude them from school for having a positive test result," Lee said. "This student is not contagious and is not a risk to other students."

The health department would not say if the two cases are related. The agency learned about the latest test results on Monday or Tuesday, Lee said.

"We cannot determine at this time if this positive test was a result of exposure to the active case," Lee said.

Tuberculosis is a treatable and curable disease. Patients who develop an active case of tuberculosis could have constant coughing for more than three weeks, fever, night sweats and weight loss. Sometimes patients cough up blood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if not treated properly, tuberculosis can be fatal.

So far this year, 18 confirmed active cases of tuberculosis disease have been diagnosed in St. Lucie County, which compares to the county's 10-year average of 18 cases per year.

The department originally identified 138 close contacts that were potentially exposed to the active tuberculosis infection at Centennial High School in September.

The agency said 107 of the identified contacts were tested at the school, five contacts came to the health department for testing and 13 were tested by private providers. The others are still awaiting testing. A second and final round of testing will occur in December. Close contacts are defined as individuals with prolonged and frequent exposure to someone diagnosed with an active case of tuberculosis disease, usually within an enclosed space.

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