Crowds Turn Out for TB Info, Testing - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/07/06

Crowds Turn Out for TB Info, Testing

Mercer Middle School Mercer Middle School

Tuberculosis is a word no parent wants to hear. There's a suspected case at Chatham's Mercer Middle School, and the student may have passed it on to their parents. The health department is trying to calm fears with a special meeting and some testing you don't normally get in school.

There were more concerned parents at last night's meeting than even the health department counted on. One hundred twenty-two kids got their TB tests, and their parents got some important information about the disease.

It was standing room only at the Mercer Middle School cafeteria. Parents, kids and teachers all came to listen to the details of the case.

"I need to come out, find out what's going on, make sure everything is going to be okay," said parent Rob Robinson.

Letters were sent home to nearly 300 kids and teachers who came in contact with the TB patient. Many of those families came to school for information and testing. Families who never believed TB would be something they'd have to deal with.

"I didn't think it was going to be at this school," said Nancy Hickman. "I heard it on the news. It's just a shocker."

Parents listened intently to what the health department had to say, buy some say this should have been a problem taken care of long ago.

"If you take your kids to the doctor like you're supposed to and get their checkups, this matter should have been nipped in the bud without parents having to come up here," said Nancy Hickman.

After giving out all the information, it was time to start the tests. No paper and pens here, only needles. Nurses working overtime to test as many students as possible yesterday to keep the disease form spreading today.

Each student reacted differently to the stick, but each parent had the exact same feelings about the test: fear and hope.

"I'm glad she got the test done, and when the results come back, I'll be even happier, knowing she doesn't have TB," parent Kaiisha Simmons told us.

"I'm just hoping he doesn't have it," said Hickman. "I'm going to be positive."

Each student tested last night will have to come back in 48 hours to find out the results. If your child is an eighth grader at Mercer Middle School and hasn't been tested, there is another round today. That's from 4pm to 7pm Wednesday night. Nurses from the Chatham County Health Department will be at the school to administer the tests.

And health department officials will be back at Mercer Middle School Thursday and Friday to read the results of the tests. Just bring your kids to the school between 4pm and 7pm either day to find out if your child tested positive.

And remember, if you can't make it to the school today, you can always go directly to the health department during regular business hours to have your child tested.

If you're exposed to the disease, the test stimulates a reaction from your immune system, so you'll see a bump, like a pencil eraser, on your arm. But that's just the first step.

"It doesn't mean they have active TB, it just means they have a germ in their body, and they've been exposed," explained Staci Fontaine with the health department.

The next step is a chest X-ray to see if TB's developed in the lungs. Whether or not it has, doctors put patients on medications to keep it from forming. Or if it's already there, keep it from spreading.

One more note. If those first skin tests come back negative, they'll retest in three months to make sure you're still in the clear.

Reported by: Andrew Davis, andrewdavis@wtoc.com

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