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TB case found at Math Science Technology Prep School

A person at Math Science Technology Preparatory School 197 has been diagnosed with an active case of tuberculosis, Buffalo Public Schools officials confirmed Thursday.

The district will not say whether the case involved a student or an adult, but it appears the affected person was a student who came down with symptoms in late April and was immediately hospitalized.

Erie County Health Commissioner Gale R. Burstein said the affected person was placed in isolation and has been receiving treatment since first coming down with symptoms. She also said there is little reason to be concerned about any widespread outbreak of the disease at Math Science Technology Prep, which is located at 666 E. Delavan Ave. and serves students in grades five through 12.

“This is really just another routine investigation,” she said Thursday.

In a letter sent home to parents last week, the county Department of Health stated that the affected person is receiving treatment, and the department is working with the district to make sure there is no risk to others.

“We think the risk to others in the school is very low,” the letter stated. “However, we are doing a thorough investigation. We will test all students who could have been exposed.”

Parents whose children could have been exposed were sent letters in the mail with more information.

Burstein pointed out that while tuberculosis can be spread, it is not highly contagious.

“In 2014, we only had 16 cases of active TB disease in the county,” she said. “This is a county of nearly a million people.”

The affected student has not been back to school since being diagnosed in late April and is undergoing treatment that typically lasts nine months.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a potentially serious infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs, though it can attack other parts of the body as well. The infecting bacteria most typically spreads to other people through coughing and sneezing or other transmission of saliva. TB symptoms can include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, chest pain, coughing up blood, weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever and night sweating.

The most common way to test for tuberculosis is through a skin test. In a skin test, the recipient receives a small injection of fluid just below the skin inside the forearm. If a hard, raised red bump appears within two or three days, it means the person tested likely has a TB infection.

Even if the TB test turns out to be positive, it’s possible the person may have a dormant form of tuberculosis that would show no symptoms and cannot be transmitted to others.

Anyone who does test positive, however, would undergo a more thorough examination to ensure that they do not have an active form of the disease, Burstein said.

Six mothers attended an informational session on the situation Thursday evening at the school.

Jaquelyn M. Andula, the county health department’s medical care administrator and TB program director, said fewer than 25 people who were in close contact with the infected individual have shown signs of possible infection that will require that they submit to additional tests to see if they have TB.

Some of the parents complained about not promptly receiving notice that someone had been infected.

Robbie. Robinson said she did not get a letter until after she took her sixth-grade son, Marshaun, to the Sisters Hospital emergency room Monday, where he was found to be suffering from pneumonia.

Robinson said she also didn’t receive a similar warning letter for her ninth-grade daughter, Audjanae, who has suffered from pneumonia four times, until Wednesday.

“I have children with respiratory issues and I was told nothing” for almost three weeks, she said.

Kimberly Hampshire, whose son is a ninth-grader at the school, said the statements during the session by Andula and a 50-minute slide show presented by Michael Chase, the county health department’s public health educator, “answered all my questions and they calmed me down.”

Those who want more information can call the health department’s TB Control Program at 858-2172.

News Staff Reporter Matt Gryta contributed to this report. email: stan@buffnews.com