The state Department of Health has notified parents of students and staff at Lihikai Elementary School on Maui of possible exposure to tuberculosis.
In addition to an informational session for those affected to be held next week, the state is offering precautionary TB testing to roughly 80 individuals who may have had exposure.
“The risk of catching TB from someone at school is very low,” said Dr. Elizabeth MacNeill, chief of the department’s Tuberculosis Branch in a statement. “TB is not as contagious as many other illnesses such as colds or the flu. Testing may help us find others with early, noncontagious TB and gives us the opportunity to prevent TB for those who might have been exposed. The school screening is an extra measure of safety, and everyone who may have been exposed is being notified.”
The health department was notified of an active TB case at the school at the end of October and conducted an investigation and evaluation of potential contacts. Information on the individual and their case is confidential.
While the department will only be testing persons with regular close contact to the patient, all student families and school employees are receiving a letter describing the situation and whether testing is recommended.
Informational meetings will be held in the cafeteria at Lihikai Elementary School at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday for school employees and at 6 p.m. for families and the general public. TB screening at the school is scheduled to begin on Nov. 27.
TB is a disease that is commonly seen in the lungs and can be spread from person-to- person through the air with close, continuous contact. When a person with active TB disease in the lung or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, tiny drops containing M. tuberculosis may be spread into the air. If another person inhales these drops, there is a chance that they may become infected with TB.
Two forms of TB exist — latent TB infection and active TB disease — which are both treatable and curable. For more information, the public may call the department’s Hawaii Tuberculosis Control Program at 832-5731.