State Health Officials Meet With Families Over Tuberculosis Outbreak

Parents say they are frustrated with high school, state health department

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    Parents packed a public meeting with state health officials Wednesday night about the tuberculosis outbreak at Ennis High School.

    More than 100 people have tested positive for exposure to tuberculosis out of the more than 800 people who have had skin tests.

    Health Officials Meet With Parents Over TB Outbreak

    [DFW] Health Officials Meet With Parents Over TB Outbreak
    Up to 10 Ennis High students could have tuberculosis, and 128 people have tested positive for exposure to the infection. (Published Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011)

    Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said during the meeting that up to 10 Ennis High School students could have tuberculosis.

    Officials from the Texas Department of State Health Services tried to reassure parents, saying tuberculosis is easily treatable with medication.

    Ennis Parents and Students Want Answers

    [DFW] Ennis Parents and Students Want Answers
    Parents and students are frustrated with how Ennis High School and the state health department have handled a tuberculosis outbreak. (Published Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011)

    Parent Aline Whatley, one of the first to the podium, said school officials are not taking the outbreak seriously enough.

    "I have a problem with it sounding like it's the flu," she told school officials. "It's not the flu; it's something that can damage my child's health, and I do not play Russian roulette with my child’s health."

    More Students Diagnosed with TB

    [DFW] More Students Diagnosed with TB
    So far 80 Ennis High School students have tested positive for exposure to tuberculosis and the second round of tests happened Friday. (Published Friday, Sept. 23, 2011)

    Whately asked officials what they were doing to stop the spread of the outbreak. Officials said they were actively testing hundreds of students and suggesting treatment for those who have been exposed.

    But Whately said after the meeting that she was not satisfied with their response.

    Doctor: Students With Positive TB Skin Test Shouldn't Panic

    [DFW] Doctor: Students With Positive TB Skin Test Shouldn't Panic
    Students who tested positively for exposure to tuberculosis are getting chest X-rays to determine if they have the infection. (Published Monday, Sept. 19, 2011)

    "It was lousy," she said. "It went nowhere. I didn't get any of my answers, they avoided all of my questions. ... They don’t care about our kids. They care about not alarming the public. I think they’re a little beyond that.”

    836 given TB skin tests

    The tuberculosis testing was ordered because a teacher was diagnosed with the bacterial infection before the start of the school year.

    Of the 836 people tested for exposure to tuberculosis, 128 tested positive. Students, staff members and anyone who has been in close contact with them have gotten a skin test.

    A positive skin test does not mean a person has tuberculosis or is contagious. Those who test positive have a 10 percent chance they will develop tuberculosis at some point in their lifetime.

    Health officials will conduct chest X-rays on those who have tested positive to see if they have the bacterial infection. Those abnormal chest x-rays will undergo a third test.

    Students who test positive on a skin test can get an X-ray at school inside the state's mobile X-ray truck.

    Waxahachie school officials said they are warning their athletes about possible exposure to the infection. The school district said Waxahachie students will be warned to limit their time around Ennis students when the schools meet for an athletic event.

    Parents voice frustration

    Lavitria Goss said she is frustrated with how Ennis High and the state health department have handled the outbreak.

    "I'm off work for a month without pay," she said. "Nobody has offered to help. Nobody has called and said anything. I'm frustrated."

    Her two teenage children have tested positive and are confined to one room in the house. Goss, who wears a mask inside her home every day, has tested positive for exposure.

    Her chest X-ray was normal, but her elderly mother has an active case of tuberculosis and her 6-month-old niece is hospitalized with complications from contracting tuberculosis.

    Goss is trying to keep her home as germ-free as possible by cleaning constantly.

    Her children will go back to school when they are no longer contagious but will receive antibiotic treatments for the next nine months.

    Jeannine Ohrmundt, who does not have children at Ennis High School, said her family will get tested "just in case."

    "I mean, we've been hearing about this for some time now," she said. "You feel concerned, and you're questioning if it was handled properly."

    Tuberculosis is spread through prolonged, close contact.

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