Concerns over tuberculosis testing at a Tulsa elementary school

Tuesday, November 9th 2004, 10:23 am
By: News On 6

The latest on a tuberculosis testing in Tulsa. One child who's a student at Cherokee Elementary School is believed to have the disease and some parents are upset at the way the tuberculosis case is being handled.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg explains that some parents say they only learned about the case after hearing about it on the news. And they've been confused about what's going on and what they should do.

Terri McCause was at the health department Tuesday getting TB tests for her child and grandkids. Because she felt like she was better safe than sorry. "And the school people couldn't. They couldn't tell us anything in the office this morning, they weren't directed to do so, and they didn't have permission."

The Tulsa City-County Health Department's Janice Sheehan says it's true that only certain parents received letters about the case at Cherokee Elementary, because tuberculosis testing always starts small. “We always start with the nucleus or the core, which is the people that the sick person is around most."

Terri McCause: "But Cherokee is such a small school, so there's interaction in the cafeteria, there’s after-school programs where a lot of the older kids that were in contact with this other child are there."

Sheehan explains that TB is much more likely to spread in a small classroom than on a playground or in a cafeteria. Although she says it wouldn't necessarily stop with the core group. "And if we get some positives out of that group, then we will see about expanding our group to where we expand the circle until we get no positives at all."

She says if the people closest to the infected person are not infected. It's virtually impossible for anyone to be infected. "In fact, children don't usually infect other people." Though fearsome in the past and though it's still a stubborn bacteria, tuberculosis is now successfully treated with antibiotics.

Sheehan's advice to parents outside that core group is to wait and see what they get from this first round of testing.

The wait will "not" have a negative effect on later treatment, if it turns out that more people need it. They have limited resources at the Tulsa City-County Health Department, that's why they don't want people getting tested, unless they're sure it's necessary.