Tuberculosis infects 27 at Kansas City area high school

Posted at 3:54 PM, Mar 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-19 10:25:21-04

Nearly 30 people have tested positive for tuberculosis at a Kansas City-area high school, officials confirmed Wednesday.

That’s about 10 percent of the 300 tested after one person tested positive at Olathe Northwest High School last week, KSHB reports.

“The number of individuals with TB infection does not exceed what we would anticipate in this setting,” said Lougene Marsh, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment in a statement.

Officials have not confirmed who may have been the original carrier of the disease.

Tuberculosis is an airborne bacteria that usually attacks the lungs. It’s typically spread when a person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unlike some germs, TB doesn’t linger on surfaces, so it doesn’t spread by shaking an infected person’s hand, sharing food or drink or kissing. Some people can carry TB in their body as a carrier without getting sick.

A skin test can determine if a person is a TB carrier. A chest X-ray is needed to diagnose TB disease.

According to the CDC, vaccination for TB is not common in the United States. In other parts of the world, TB is rampant — infecting 9 million and killing 1.5 million worldwide each year.

In the U.S., there are about 9,500 TB cases each year, of which about 500 die. A majority of U.S. cases come from foreign-born persons, according to the CDC.

The symptoms of tuberculosis are:

  • 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
  • Sweating at night


Gavin Stern is a national digital producer with the Scripps National Desk.