Tuberculosis diagnosed in north Iowa high school student

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A notice on the Hampton-Dumont district website confirmed a student at the district's high school has been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Public health officials will be at the high school this month to test students, staff and others who may have had close contact with the student.

Hampton-Dumont administrators sent the alert to district parents and guardians Monday afternoon informing them that a student had been diagnosed with the disease. The school nurse is working with state officials, Franklin County, and health care providers to come up with a final list of people who will be notified they should be tested.

Health officials said tuberculosis can get complicated as far as the length of time it could develop in the body, but said it can be identified and treated with both the testing and the treatment free to individuals who contract it.

Tuberculosis is transmitted with close contact with an infected person, through coughing, sneezing, exhaled breath from talking to the person who has it.

Symptoms of active tuberculosis include coughing that last three or more weeks, a fever, and unintentional weight loss.

Officials at the Iowa Department of Health tuberculosis control program said, "Tuberculosis is not just a disease of the past. On average, Iowa reports 46 cases of active disease and 1,100 cases of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) each year." This average of 46 cases represents a low point in the last 90 years. In the decade from 1930-1939, cases reached a high of 757 on average in the state.

The number of TB cases in Iowa has significantly declined since the discovery of antibiotics that kill the TB bacilli, a report from the tuberculosis control program states. Despite drugs that can cure TB disease, it remains a significant public health issue in Iowa and the rest of the U.S. Iowa's rate of 1.5 cases per 100,000 persons is significantly less than that national average of 2.8 cases per 100,000 persons.

From 2008-2017, the number of cases reached a high of 54 in 2014 and a low of 38 in 2015. There were no cases in Emmet County nor in the surrounding counties, except one case in Dickinson County between 2008-2017.

The IDPH said immigration plays a part in the rise of TB in the U.S., but not because people immigrating to the U.S. are bringing it with them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention require immigrants (refugees and immigrant visa holders) to have a medical examination prior to entry, which includes screening for communicable diseases of public health significance. This ensures immigrants are not arriving with communicable diseases such as TB. However, these persons could develop TB disease after arrival.

The greatest number of TB cases from 2008-2017 were from U.S. born non-immigrants. Of those who were immigrants, India was the single most common nation of origin followed by Mexico, Vietnam and Burma. However, a mix of 38 other countries yielded the most cases. The IDPH said this further illustrates the global burden of TB.

Officials from the Dept. of Health said if you suspect you may have been exposed to TB, or are showing symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately, limit exposure to others, and if diagnosed or your exposure is determined to be a credible threat, cooperate in identifying others who may have been exposed, follow the medication protocol exactly and take all of the medicine prescribed.

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