Tuberculosis positive case found at Penn Wood Middle School in Darby, Delaware County

DARBY, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — The Delaware County Health Department says a person at Penn Wood Middle School in the William Penn School District has tested positive for tuberculosis.

Representatives are working to identify students and staff at the Darby School who may have been exposed to the disease.

The health department emphasizes that students and staff can continue to learn actively in school settings because TB is not as contagious as the flu and requires prolonged close contact (about at least 15 hours of contact per week) to spread.

“The important first step is to identify close contacts of the infected person. Those identified as close contacts will be notified by the health department for testing arrangements,” the DCHD said in a statement released Monday.

Parents with concerns should call the Delaware County Health Department’s Wellness Hotline, available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., by phone at (484) 276-2100, or by email at DelcoWellness@co. us.

Tuberculosis is rare. The latest CDC data from 2021 shows 7,882 reported cases nationwide; 166 cases were reported in Pennsylvania, New Jersey reported 292 cases and Delaware had 41 reported cases.

“It’s a bacterium that people breathe into their lungs, and a lot of people breathe it in, and nothing happens for a period of time. The body shields it and it’s dormant for maybe decades after initial exposure,” said Dr. Debra Powell, chief of infectious diseases and interim chair of the Department of Medicine at Tower Health.

Powell says it can be latent and remain hidden or become active.

“What happens with active tuberculosis, after you get that organism in your lungs, it starts to build up like some kind of pneumonia. It has an infection in the lungs and it breaks into an airway and you start coughing it up and that’s why it’s contagious to other people. In an active case, they have symptoms: fever, cough, weight loss, night sweats, and these are people who are contagious,” she adds.

So how contagious is it?

“People we see developing tuberculosis are usually in the same household as the index case, or in the same classroom for an extended period of time. But they’re not usually randomly exposed to people, like at the grocery store or in the hallway,” Powell said.

Tuberculosis is NOT transmitted by:

– Shake someone’s hand

– Sharing of food or drink

– Touching bedding or toilet seats

– Share toothbrushes

– kissing

Here is more information on TB from the CDC:

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