New York City Department of Health
and Mental Hygiene
Office of Communications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin/Greg Butler
Friday, November 8, 2002
CITY HEALTH DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATING CASE OF TUBERCULOSIS AT BROOKLYN PRIVATE SCHOOL
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is currently investigating a case of active tuberculosis (TB) in an employee at a Brooklyn private school. On October 29, DOHMH performed skin tests on 66 students and staff believed to be at greatest risk for exposure as part of a routine investigation. Of these 66 individuals, 45 were found to have latent TB infection, and one person is receiving treatment for suspected extra-pulmonary (non-contagious) disease. People who are infected with latent TB bacteria do not show signs of illness, and are not contagious. However, without preventive treatment, one in ten will go on to develop active TB in the future. Therefore, all infected individuals have been recommended to take treatment for the latent infection. Because of the high proportion of persons who tested positive for tuberculosis infection at the school, DOHMH has recommended that all students and staff who attended the school during the 2001-2002 academic year also undergo a tuberculin skin test.
DOHMH was notified in mid-August that an employee tested positive for active TB. The school employee is currently receiving treatment and has not returned to the school since being diagnosed with active TB. Skin tests on persons believed to be at greatest risk for exposure took place in October. It usually takes eight to twelve weeks for persons to test positive for infection by TB bacteria. Through a letter issued on November 4, DOHMH notified parents of the approximately 200 students who attend the school that their children should undergo a tuberculin skin test. Additionally, DOHMH is contacting parents of children who graduated in the prior academic year (2001-2002), notifying them that their children should undergo a tuberculin skin test as well. DOHMH held an informational session at the school with parents last night to answer questions and address possible concerns. DOHMH continues to investigate and will be offering follow-up tuberculin skin tests for students and staff.
Tuberculosis is both preventable and curable, and is usually spread through close, prolonged contact (e.g., family members, co-workers). In most cases, people who test positive for tuberculin skin tests have latent tuberculosis. These people are not sick, and are not contagious. On the other hand, persons with active tuberculosis disease may be sick, and may be able to pass the disease along to others. Both latent and active tuberculosis disease are treatable with antibiotics. Millions of Americans and approximately 1/3 of world's population have latent tuberculosis. For more information on tuberculosis, visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/tb/tb.html.