Living With Tuberculosis - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/23/06

Living With Tuberculosis

What was a possible case of Tuberculosis in an 8th grade student at Mercer Middle School, has now been confirmed as an active case.

Three weeks ago, health officials tested students and staff for any exposure to the Tuberculosis bacteria from that student.

So far, 14 people from Mercer Middle have tested positive for that exposure to TB, ten are 8th graders. A bus driver, a sixth grader, a seventh grader, and a teacher have also tested positive for the Tuberculosis germ. Fourteen year old Joel Montes is one of those students who was a tested and received a positive result for exposure to T.B. "I was surprised that I had it, because none of my friends have it. I'm the only one who had it," said Joel.

Fortunately, Joel's chest x-ray came back negative, meaning he has the germ, but is not contagious. "I didn't think it was a big deal, as long as it's not contagious. I don't have to do anything different," said Joel.

But he still has to take preventive medicines. One pill a day for the next 9 months under the watchful eye of Chatham County Health Department nurse, Staci Fontaine. The medicine Joel is taking will prevent the theTB germ from activating, and getting into his lungs.

Although Joel and 300 other students were tested, health officials said there's still more who haven't been. Students would have received a letter in the mail. If you got this note, you need to call the Chatham County Health Department immediately.

Health department officials are still looking for 20 bus riders that rode bus number 304, and 30 more Mercer 8th grade students. "It's very important they get tested, because if you don't, and you've been exposed, the germ just floats around in your body. It can go into your lungs, and make you very sick and you become contagious," explained nurse, Staci Fontaine.

Even Joel encourages his fellow classmates to get tested, hoping they will experience the same peace of mind he has." They are my friends and I care about them. If they don't get tested, then they'll never know and that could be bad," said Joel.

Chatham County health department officials say it is very important for anyone who may have had contact with the infected 8th grader to be tested. They're sending out a second round of letters and making phones calls. If that doesn't work, they'll start making visits to student's homes.

Reported by: Melanie A. Ruberti, mruberti@wtoc.com

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