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Hundreds may need testing for tuberculosis after exposure at high school in Olathe

By Mark Poulose

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    OLATHE, Kansas (KCTV) — A tuberculosis exposure in Olathe may be much larger than originally thought. The Johnson County Health Department says at least 425 people need to be tested.

The exposures happened at Olathe Northwest High School. Thursday night, the school held a meeting to talk about how testing will work. However, the school district did not allow media into the meeting, saying it was for “parents only.”

In the meeting, Johnson County Health told KCTV5 they talked to families about TB, updated them on the investigation into the active case, and let families know about a testing clinic that will open next Thursday, Oct. 12.

“The student was infectious as early as last spring,” said Charlie Hunt, Johnson County’s Department of Health Director. “That’s why we have such a large number of contacts and why we are doing this large investigation to make sure we catch everybody.”

Johnson County Health Officials told KCTV5 that classes and activities at Olathe Northwest have gone on as usual. Now, they’re preparing to test close contacts to see if the infection has spread to others.

“Just because of the large number, we are anticipating it might take up to a couple of weeks to get those results back and for us to get everything processed and get that information communicated back to the families,” Hunt said.

Hunt also told KCTV5 TB is not transmitted as easily as the flu or COVID-19. However, he said it’s important to catch an active case early so treatment can get started right away.

“Anyone who is found to be positive after this first round of testing will be referred to their health care provider to receive a follow-up evaluation,” Hunt said. “Then they’ll be started on a treatment for latent tuberculosis infection.”

Johnson County Health said TB is treatable, but the treatment does take some time. An active case of TB requires anywhere from 4-9 months of antibiotics.

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