INDIO, Calif. - Nurses evaluated 1,332 skin tests which were administered Friday during a four-hour clinic at Indio High School after a student was diagnosed with active tuberculosis recently.
There were 126 students who tested positive for possible exposure to the illness, but officials emphasized those results don't mean they have active tuberculosis.
Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county's public health officer, said the rate of positive test results are within expected levels. "Given this population, we would expect a positive test result of no more than 10 to 15 percent," said Kaiser, who ordered the entire student body and staff be tested. "These numbers are very reassuring for the community as a whole. The health department will follow up with those who tested positive for exposure."
The 126 students who require further testing will be asked to get a chest X-ray, according to Kaiser. The county will cover the costs of the X-Rays.
Monday was the first official day off for students during winter break, but a line of students formed at the high school as teenagers waited for their test results from Friday. School officials said all but 31 students returned to get their results.
"It shows a lot about the maturity level of the students here," said Principal Rudy Ramirez. "They knew it was important to get it done and they did it."
Some students reacted with enthusiasm to their TB test results.
"I got a negative result for TB!" Angelique Melendrez exclaimed.
Some were annoyed they had to return to school on the first day of winter break.
"It's my break," Jonathan McKinley said. "I should be at home sleeping. Eating cookies or something."
Others remain concerned that 126 students tested positive for possible exposure to TB. One student who has active TB was on campus from September to mid November.
"This is pretty scary," Jocelyn Gutierrez said. "Because we don't know who it is, or how many people actually have it. That's what worries us the most."
Kaiser said he's confident that the likelihood of the illness spreading remains low.
Those students and staff who could not show up Monday were given the option Friday of having a blood test done. Kaiser said about 200 blood samples were taken and there were eight samples that tested positive for possible exposure. Those students will also need to have a chest X-ray done.
School officials have ordered that all students and staff members show proof that they've been tested, as well as show results of those tests, before returning to the school. Friday's screening was scheduled after follow-up X-rays on students tested earlier in the week identified five students who needed further examination.
"This is the system working as designed," Kaiser said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that usually attack the lungs, but it can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. It is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
It is not spread by shaking someone's hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes or kissing. Some of the symptoms include: Coughing with sputum for more than three to four weeks, coughing up blood, pain in the chest when breathing, unexplained loss of appetite or weight loss and fever with night sweats for more than three weeks, according to the CDC.