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12 at Grover Cleveland test positive for tuberculosis

Twelve people at Grover Cleveland High School tested positive for tuberculosis this week, two months after a student there was diagnosed with the disease.

None of the 12 are showing any signs of tuberculosis. Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony J. Billittier IV emphasized that the test results do not mean these people have tuberculosis, or even that they were exposed as a result of the student who was diagnosed in October.

Billittier said the student who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis two months ago most likely was exposed to it overseas. Grover Cleveland has a large population of recent immigrants. Nine of those who tested positive were students; the others were staff members.

"At some point in their lives they have been exposed and infected with tuberculosis," he said. "It does not in any way mean their exposure was as a result of this current episode."

Some nations offer tuberculosis vaccinations. Once people are vaccinated, they are considered to have been infected with the disease, Billittier said. It's possible that some of the people tested positive this week simply because they had at one time been vaccinated, he said.

In any random group of people, 3 to 10 percent might test positive for tuberculosis, he said. At Grover Cleveland, 6 percent of those tested showed up positive.

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease, spread from person to person through the air, that usually attacks the lungs. It is not spread through casual contact, but through prolonged exposure to an infected person over a period of time.

The Health Department tested 199 people on Monday at the high school, which is on the West Side. The results came back late this week. The school-based health center at Grover Cleveland has offered to continue testing staff and students.

The student who was diagnosed in October has been treated and has returned to school, officials said.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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