Single Case of Tuberculosis at High School in Colorado Forces Widespread Testing

Denver Post, Karen Augé, Feb. 10, 2012

Some 40 percent of 140 students and staff exposed to tuberculosis at Longmont High School have tested positive for latent TB, a rate that one expert called “absolutely astounding.”

The unexpectedly high rate of positive tests means health officials now plan to test all the roughly 1,200 students and 120 faculty and staff who were at the school in the fall term, said Dr. Randall Reves, director of the of the Denver Metro Tuberculosis Clinic, based at Denver Health.

The testing started after a Longmont High student was diagnosed with active TB last fall. Health officials began by testing students who had two or more classes with the infected student. As positive results kept appearing, the circle of people who were tested grew.

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Reves said blood tests for TB cost about $40 each, just for the equipment and processing, while the older skin test method costs considerably less. Still, the cost, which is being picked up by the public health departments, is expected to be significant.

“It’s expensive, and the state knows this.” But, Reves likened it to a wildfire—it’s unexpected but for the public good, “you have to be able to respond.

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