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News / Health / Health Wire

135 people from a Kent school need to be evaluated for tuberculosis

By The Seattle Times
Published: September 27, 2023, 11:46am

SEATTLE — King County health officials are asking about 135 people from Kentridge High School to be evaluated for tuberculosis after they were exposed indoors to someone diagnosed with the infectious disease.

The Kent School District will contact individuals who need to be evaluated after the exposure occurred from March through September, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County. Those identified with latent TB infection may be recommended for treatment, so they do not develop the disease.

The person infected at Kentridge is receiving treatment and is currently not a risk for infecting others, the county health department said in a news release.

TB is an infectious disease that usually affects the lungs. It can also affect lymph nodes, bones, joints and other parts of the body. TB can be deadly but is curable with medication.

Most TB infections are latent or dormant. Approximately 100,000 people in King County have latent TB infections, which means a person has no symptoms and cannot spread the disease, according to health officials. About 5% of those with a latent infection will develop active TB within two years, and an additional 5% will develop it over the rest of their lifetime.

Active TB is much harder to spread than the cold or flu, health officials said. For an infection to occur, it typically takes repeated and prolonged exposure in a confined indoor space.

The number of people infected with tuberculosis rose globally for the first time in years, the World Health Organization said in October.

In June, a Tacoma woman was arrested for refusing treatment for active TB for over a year, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. She was found in civil contempt for refusing to comply with a court order to take medication or isolate. She was released after treatment.