by Krystal Paco
Guam - Students and staff at Simon Sanchez High School identified as contacts of an active tuberculosis case from last school year are required to take a TB test next Tuesday.
"We learned over the course of the summer through the efforts at Public Health that one of the students at Simon Sanchez was diagnosed with active tuberculosis," shared Rob Malay, deputy superintendent of the Department of Education. "The student has not reported to school this school year as of yet." There's no reason to hit the panic button just yet, as Malay says DOE is working with the Department of Public Health and Social Services to contain the situation. All students and staff identified as contacts will be required to take a TB test next Tuesday or be refused entrance to campus.
"I don't think at this point we should be pushing the panic button. I think at this point we need to go in and do the screening and see what we come up with," he added.
According to Public Health TB control program coordinator Cecilia Arciaga, the student could have had active TB as early as February 2012. "It was just recently diagnosed. Just to be on the safe side, we decided we need to recall students in that same class," she said.
Malay says although school staff are required to update shot records and skin tests annually, the rules are slightly different for students. Students are required to update shots annually, but TB testing only prior to enrollment. "I think in regard to TB, I think it should be an annual screening," he told KUAM News.
Arciaga assures parents that TB is curable if diagnosed early and treated with proper medications. What's most troublesome about the disease is it's airborne - therefore highly infectious. "Once they inhale it, it can actually become an active case although for the most part even upon exposure, patients don't develop TB right away. It will take a while. These germs can stay dormant for the rest of their lives. But because we're dealing with school children we've got to be very, very proactive in making sure we screen every contact that we have identified," she said.
In 2011 there were 81 active TB cases and for 2012, already 50 reported in the registry. In 2010, there were 10 deaths as a result of TB, but according to Arciaga, victims were diagnosed too late and had other diseases in conjunction.
TB symptoms include coughing that lasts for more than two weeks, weight loss, unexplained loss of appetite, and feeling weak or sick.