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California

Modesto high school student diagnosed with tuberculosis

tuberculosis, drug resistance
A doctor in Los Angeles studies chest X-rays for evidence of tuberculosis. A Modesto student has been diagnosed with the disease.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Northern California health officials are checking students and staff at a Modesto high school for tuberculosis after a student was diagnosed with the disease, officials say.

The student is receiving medical care for the illness and no longer poses a risk to anyone at Grace M. Davis High School, Stanislaus County health officials said Tuesday.

Tuberculosis, a bacteria that can attack the lungs, can spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, but is typically contracted only by people who have spent a lot of time with those infected, experts say.

In Modesto, health workers said they will be testing only students and school staff who shared a classroom with the infected student.

In research that promises a new approach to treating an age-old human scourge, scientists have found a way to weaken the bacterium that causes tuberculosis and boost its vulnerability to drugs that are rapidly losing their power to cure.
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“Public Health is working closely with school officials to proactively investigate and test students who may have been exposed,” Stanislaus County public health officer Dr. Julie Vaishampayan said in a statement.

Tuberculosis has been falling in prevalence in the United States for many years. Last year, there were 9,025 reported cases of the disease in the United States, the lowest rate ever, according to CDC officials.

In California, however, the number of new TB cases increased slightly last year, and the TB rate is now double the nation’s, according to state data. More than 80% of California’s cases are among people born outside of the United States, and more than half are among Asian Americans, the data show.

Most people who contract tuberculosis do not have symptoms, and the disease remains latent, unable to spread to others. When people can’t fight the bacteria, the disease becomes active, and they begin showing symptoms such as a severe cough, chest pain and weight loss.

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Stanislaus County health officials said that if people test positive for latent TB, they can undergo treatment that will prevent the disease from becoming infectious, protecting themselves and others. Without proper treatment, tuberculosis can be fatal.


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