Concerns over a possible tuberculosis outbreak at La Quinta High School were calmed Wednesday after skin tests of almost 1,300 teachers and students found no signs of epidemic, county officials said.
“There were not an extraordinary number of positive cases that would indicate there’s a significant disease control problem at the school, which is very positive,” said Dr. Gerald Wagner, Orange County’s interim health officer.
More than 1,100 of the school’s 1,364 students and 169 teachers and alumni volunteered for tuberculosis tests Monday after county health officials reported that six students were found with active cases of the disease last spring.
Alan Trudell, a spokesman for the Garden Grove Unified School District, said health officials made sure that 448 people considered close contacts of the students who had active cases were tested.
Wagner said the test results would be available today but estimated that 17% to 18% of those screened for the disease had positive skin tests, “which is what we expected.” Previous testing of large groups have yielded similar results, he said.
The health official emphasized that a positive skin test alone does not indicate the presence of the disease but only that the person was exposed to tuberculosis sometime in the past.
Nurses checked students Wednesday for signs of skin reddening or hardening at the injection site. If tuberculosis was suspected, the students were then screened by another nurse.
Wagner said those with positive skin tests were instructed to get chest X-rays. Wagner predicted that “99% will be normal.”
Trudell said students were advised to see their family physicians or get chest X-rays at the health department clinic at 1725 W. 17th Street in Santa Ana. Also, the county’s mobile X-ray unit will be at the school next Monday and Wednesday for students who have signed consent forms from their parents.
Even if a chest X-ray is positive, a definitive tuberculosis finding is not made until the sputum culture is analyzed, Wagner said.
County health officials said previously that students whose X-rays reveal lung damage from tuberculosis will be put on a six- to 12-month treatment program. Anyone with a positive skin test, but no signs of active disease, will undergo a six-month treatment to prevent the disease. The health department will supply the medication, he said.
The success of the testing program was due to the “outstanding participation” by the parents and the students, Wagner said.