The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) has received preliminary results of 199 individuals tested during an investigation of a possible Tuberculosis (TB) exposure at a local senior day care center.
A total of 199 people were tested using blood samples, with 65 of those tests coming back positive for TB infection.
None of the people tested showed signs or reported symptoms of having active TB and further testing will be conducted as part of the investigation process to determine their status.
“While this is a relatively high rate of positivity, we must also consider, among other factors, that any elderly population will likely have higher positivity rates due to prior exposure so a positive test could be unrelated to this particular exposure event,” said Robert Resendes, Public Health Director. “What we want the attendees and the community at large to know is that there is a systematic process in place to ensure everyone’s safety.”
The next step in the investigation will be providing test results to those who were tested at the day care facility. Those who tested positive will then require further workup including physical evaluations by DPH TB nurses as well as chest x-rays. For those with no insurance or means to pay, the Department will arrange for them to obtain their chest x-ray at no cost to them. It is expected that completion of the x-ray phase of the investigation will take about two weeks.
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection (LTBI) and TB disease.
If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. TB bacteria are 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, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.
TB is NOT spread by
- shaking someone’s hand
- sharing food or drink
- sharing toothbrushes
- touching bed linens or toilet seats
When a person breathes in TB bacteria, the bacteria can settle in the lungs and begin to grow. From there, it can move through the blood to other parts of the body, such as the kidney, spine, and brain. TB disease in the lungs or throat can be infectious. This means that the bacteria can be spread to other people. TB in other parts of the body, such as the kidney or spine, is usually not infectious.
People with TB disease are most likely to spread it to people they spend time with every day. This includes family members, friends, and coworkers or schoolmates.