The Linn County Health Department will begin testing 350 children for tuberculosis next week. This new round of testing stems from an active T-B case reported earlier this fall at Twisters Gymnastics in Hiawatha. Parents of the affected children will receive a letter asking them to get their kids tested. Vickie Smith of Linn County Public Health says the testing is expanding to include hundreds of other children as a precaution.
“We don’t believe they had direct contact with the infectious case, but because of how everyone moves around in the facility, it’s impossible to totally eliminate that possibility,” Smith says. Tuberculosis can’t survive on a surface like a gym mat. It spreads through the air when someone coughs.
But Twister?s owner, John Mangold said many parents still worry. Mangold says, “It was a lot of people that were concerned because they didn’t understand the disease. But, after they read it and we gave them some information and talked to them, they’re like oh, just like anything else we’ll have to get it taken care of.” Smith says the health department wants people to know there’s no reason to be alarmed. “It’s not a medical emergency, but we need people to follow through with this. We need to make sure that transmission did not occur,” Smith says.
Enrollment is up at Twisters from last year, even with news of the T-B incident. Parents like Janice Crookshank seem to understand no health threat remains at the gym. “We heard about the person that was here, but we know they take the proper steps here to make sure that everybody’s safe,” Crookshank says. T-B is a treatable and curable disease, but the health department says it’s important to catch it early, especially with children. Any children with a non-active T-B infection cannot spread the disease to others.
The Health Department says it’s important to test children now because some people don’t develop any symptoms from the disease for decades. Four other people had an active case of T-B in Linn County this past year. One of those individuals worked at Rockwell Collins and died from the disease.
Related web sites:
Division of Tuberculosis Elimination Website