“There isn’t an outbreak,” Sommer Delgado, school system spokeswoman, said. “We’ve just identified one particular person who tested positive.”
Marietta City Schools said it could not release details of the identity of the source of the infection because of medical confidentiality laws.
The 500 students and employees of the high school can get a free skin test to determine if they have been in contact with TB bacteria at Marietta High School between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. today. There will be two other dates to get a free test at the school: June 2 from 8:30 a.m. and noon and June 9 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Those on the list required to be tested can also go to the Cobb & Douglas Public Health to get tested for free. Those who received the skin test will have fluid injected into their arm, and will need to come back to the school June 2 to let health care specialists see if they have had a reaction to the fluid.
The portion of the school required to get tests were notified with a letter, and the whole school received another letter to notify them of the possible case of TB.
The letter to the 500 states “it is MANDATORY that your student receive a Tuberculin Skin Test.” It goes on to say students can be tested by their primary care physicians, as well as listing the testing dates at the school.
Students who see a physician must prove they underwent the test before they will be permitted to return to school or any school related activities, such as summer school, sports or camps, the letter says.
The second letter gives an overview about TB, and says a positive test for TB infection “does not necessarily mean that you have TB disease.” It goes on to say other tests, such as an X-ray, are needed to determine if someone has the disease. The letter characterizes symptoms of TB as frequent coughing, feeling weak, having a fever, weight loss, coughing up blood or experiencing nighttime sweats. The 500 were chosen because they were in “close contact” with the individual.
“We’ve gone through this particular individual’s schedules and chosen who they’re in contact with continually,” Delgado said.
Marietta High Principal Leigh Colburn warns parents not to jump to conclusions about the individual who tested positive for the TB infection.
“Most of the students in my school who are not born in America have all been vaccinated,” Colburn said Thursday. “The kids in Africa and Europe and Asia and south and central America — they’re vaccinated. It’s the American kids who aren’t vaccinated.”
One mother of a student who is required to be tested said she is worried the school is not taking enough precaution.
“I don’t understand why they’re not testing all of the students and all of the staff,” Donna Sellers, of Marietta said. “They’ve all been exposed to it.”
Sellers said she is especially worried her 15-year-old son, John, was exposed because he has Cushing’s Disease, which causes him to have a weak immune system.
“It seems like any time anyone has a cold or anything else, it seems like John comes home with it because his immune system is low,” said Donna Sellers, who created the nonprofit advocacy group John’s Foundation for Cushing’s Awareness.
The infection is not transferred by touching the same surface as someone with TB, Delgado said, so it was not necessary to test everyone at the school. It is transferred if someone coughs and another is breathing in at the same time, she said.
Donna Sellers said she feels left in the dark by the school because she didn’t know enough information about the cause of the mandatory testing. She said her son’s illness causes him to have high blood pressure and problems with his muscles and cognitive skills. After six years of home school, this was John Seller’s first year back in a public school after he was diagnosed.
“I was very concerned because this was like a slap in the face to us,” Donna Sellers said. “Why aren’t they explaining this to the families instead of leaving us in the dark?”
The results of the tests taken Friday will be read out on Monday, June 2, Valerie Crow, director of communications at Cobb & Douglas Public Health said.
The skin test is a preliminary one that shows whether someone has been in contact with the TB bacteria. If it comes back positive, Crow said, the person will need to get a chest X-ray to see if there is any active TB in their lungs. If the X-ray is negative, the person will be offered preventative medication, and if it is positive he or she will be treated for the infection, Crow said. Other cases of TB have been reported at schools recently, Crow said, so this incident is not out of the ordinary.
“This is really not an unusual situation because in Cobb County schools there have been some schools who have had this same sort of incident happen in the last month or two,” Crow said.
— Jon Gillooly and Emily Boorstein contributed to this article