INDIO, Calif. - "I was just like, 'Oh my God,' this is really happening to our school and we're all going to be notified now and it's kind of scary," said Diana Espinoza, a senior at Indio High School.
1,800 students and staff at Indio High School begin their winter break tomorrow by undergoing mandatory testing for tuberculosis.
"We're going to be doing all the testing from 8am to 12pm. We're going to get all our students through and we'll have them come back Monday to have the skin test read," said Indio High School principal Rudy Ramirez.
After one student tested positive for active TB last month, 131 others who had contact with that student were also tested. Of those 45 tested positive for possible exposure, and follow up X-rays showed five need further examination. Students testing positive for exposure do not necessarily have active TB.
"Let's just hope those 40 individuals really don't have it," Espinoza said.
Some students we met were unclear as to what exactly TB is and how it's treated. We spoke with board-certified infectious disease specialist Dr. Bachir Younes from Eisenhower Medical Center. He told us tuberculosis is a rare but treatable disease caused by bacteria that usually affects the lungs.
Symptoms include a bad cough, chest pain, coughing up blood, chills, fever and night sweats.
"Mortality from tuberculosis is extremely low. For the kid who has active TB we subject them to treatment of 6 months of anti-TB treatment," Younes said.
Students who tested positive for exposure, or have "latent TB," are also being placed on medication to prevent them from developing the disease in the future.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there were nearly 10,000 cases of TB in the U.S. in 2012. Of those more than 60% occurred among people born outside of the country.
"We have higher prevalence in California than in other states because we have higher Hispanic populations," Younes said.
If you think you've been exposed to the disease you're urged to contact your doctor or local health department to determine if testing is necessary. You can also call Disease Control at 951-358-5107.