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Health officials to test John Burroughs students for tuberculosis after possible exposure

Health officials to test John Burroughs students for tuberculosis after possible exposure
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will begin testing students at John Burroughs High School who may have been exposed to a person diagnosed with a possible case of tuberculosis on Feb. 2. (Roger Wilson / Burbank Leader)

Anxious parents peppered county health officials with questions about the safety of their children Friday afternoon after an individual at Johns Burroughs High School was diagnosed with a possible case of tuberculosis earlier this week.

The two dozen parents who attended a special meeting held at the school wanted to know if their children had been exposed to the disease and if there was a risk of it spreading to the general public. Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health worked at assuaging their fears.

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"There is no active, ongoing spread of tuberculosis at this school," Frank Alvarez, area health director for the department, said. "This particular individual was identified and isolated."

Despite the person being isolated, Alvarez said the health department will look at students and staff at the school who may have been potentially exposed to the disease.

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The Burbank Unified School District identified the students who came into contact with the person and sent a letter earlier this week to their parents informing them of the incident. An email was later sent to the wider school community about the possible exposure.

Officials declined to say if the person who was diagnosed was a student or staff member, citing health privacy laws. They also declined to say when or where the person may have been exposed to the disease but said their investigation into the incident spans as far back as the first day of school.

As a precaution, public health officials and the district will administer tuberculosis tests Feb. 2 to the students who may have been exposed to the person. A second round of testing will then be administered the following week on Feb. 6.

Garin Ohannessian, a public health nursing supervisor for the county, said parents are also free to take their child to get tested by their family doctor.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is a disease caused by a bacteria that primarily attacks a person's lungs. Those who are infected with tuberculosis do not always show signs of the illness, but the disease can be fatal if not treated properly.

Symptoms of tuberculosis include chest pain, a cough lasting longer than three weeks, coughing up blood, weight loss, fatigue and fever, according to the federal health agency.

Anyone with questions can contact Lenora Aguilera, the school nurse at John Burroughs, at (818) 729-6900, Ext. 61999.

Twitter: @Andy_Truc

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