Fairfax County Health Department Responds to Centreville High School Tuberculosis Case
Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935, FAX 703-324-2010
Nov. 26, 2003
Fairfax County Health Department Responds
Centreville High School Tuberculosis Case
Skin tests of close contacts to begin
The Fairfax County Health Department will begin skin-testing teachers, students and others who are considered to be close contacts of a Centreville High School student confirmed Nov. 21 to have pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) disease. Skin testing to check for TB infection will be administered in the school Dec. 12 with follow-up evaluations Dec. 15. Those with negative readings on Dec. 15 will be retested 12 weeks later.
Timing for TB skin testing is determined based on TB incubation periods. It can take up to 12 weeks for the body to react to a TB skin test after becoming newly infected.
TB skin tests of the student’s closest and highest-risk contacts already have been evaluated and are negative. “Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease most likely spread person-to-person by close, prolonged exposure to infected airborne droplets, such as from a cough or sneeze. In this particular case, the negative TB skin tests of the student’s closest and highest-risk contacts suggest that the student has not spread the infection,” said Ronald Karpick, M.D., a TB expert with the Fairfax County Health Department.
County health officials emphasize that even when TB infection (the presence of TB bacteria in the body) is identified through a TB skin test, it does not necessarily mean a person will become sick with tuberculosis disease. “In healthy people, the body’s immune system usually does a good job fighting the bacteria. Plus, the disease can be prevented with a strict, nine-month medication regimen,” said Karpick.
Upon lab confirmation of the TB case, county health investigators immediately responded by working with Fairfax County Public Schools to identify the student’s close contacts, which include household members, fellow bus riders, and those students and teachers in the same classrooms as the student. Approximately 150 people have been identified as close contacts.
“While the community at-large is at very low risk of contracting TB from the student, the Fairfax County Health Department and the schools have identified those who may have had prolonged exposure with the student. These individuals are considered to have a slightly increased risk for TB infection and will be tested at the school,” said Gloria Addo-Ayensu, M.D., county health director.
A letter was sent yesterday from the school to the households of close contacts, with information about the TB testing procedures. Included in this letter are health history forms, on which respondents are urged to report any previous positive TB skin tests and previous TB vaccines (often administered in foreign countries). TB vaccines can result in a positive skin-test reading. In addition, the school sent a general letter yesterday to all students and school staff members explaining the situation.
The Fairfax County Health Department will administer TB skin tests to the student’s close contacts in a temporary clinic at Centreville High School Dec. 12. The test involves injecting a small amount of testing fluid (tuberculin) under the skin of the forearm. All who receive the injection will be asked to return to the testing clinic at the school on Dec. 15, at which time Health Department clinicians will examine test recipients’ arms and measure any resulting skin reactions to determine the presence of TB bacteria in the body.
Close contacts who test negative for TB infection in the initial skin testing phase will be retested in 12 weeks, the amount of time the body can take to react to a TB skin test after becoming newly infected. Those who test positive will be referred for a chest x-ray to determine or rule out active TB disease of the lungs.
Those not considered close contacts but who may be concerned can receive a TB skin test at a Fairfax County Health Department clinic or may request a test from their private physician. Anyone with questions about TB or testing can call the Health Department at 703-481-4242, TTY 711 and ask to speak to the nurse of the day.
For more information on tuberculosis and TB
testing, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at