State and Linn county health officials began testing about a hundred and fifty people for tuberculosis this week, and a health official says some of the testing will be going on for two months or more.
Linn County Public Health Nursing Supervisor Vickie Smith says it’s nothing to panic about …in fact, they handle a few reports every year of T-B. She says every year Linn County gets one to four reports of new T-B cases, check them out, and follow up as needed.
While officials are checking out a report that the recent death of a woman was due to tuberculosis, Smith says there are procedures in place for handling any case of exposure to the disease.
The investigation of this case includes people who appear to have been exposed to someone with active tuberculosis, and she says “there was some spread to these close contacts, and now we’re investigating their close contacts.” Unlike very contagious diseases like measles and mumps, she says a person can be infected with T-B and develop a latent infection that shows no signs for months or years.
Out of the people who have latent T-B infections, Smith says one in ten or so may go on to develop actual tuberculosis at some point in their life. She says despite the testing of dozens of people, the current case is no medical emergency. “There are no alarms going off,” Smith says, “This is not a medical emergency.”
Smith says they’ve told the local folks affected that there’s no need to panic and even if they’re found to have a case of T-B, it can be treated. The testing is an important step, she says. It can take more than two months for a skin test to turn positive, and it may be too early for some to show signs, so they’ll be re-tested.