A student at Shadow Hills High School in Indio has been diagnosed with active tuberculosis. Riverside County health officials are working with school representatives to identify students and staff who might have been exposed to the illness, according to a news release from the Public Health Department of Riverside University Health System.

The student is receiving treatment and is expected to recover, although the individual will not return to school until a medical clearance is issued. The student is not being identified due to confidentiality requirements.

Riverside County health officials are sending out about 400 letters to the parents of students who may have been exposed to the illness. Staff members who may have been exposed will receive notification from the school.

Data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in March 2018 show tuberculosis (TB) cases declining in the United States, but at a rate too slow to achieve TB elimination in this century. In 2017, 9,093 new cases of TB were reported in the U.S., a 1.8 percent drop from the prior year. However, the current TB rate (2.8 cases per 100,000 persons) remains at levels 28 times higher than the TB elimination target rate.

The Riverside County health department is recommending that anyone who receives the notice be screened with a TB skin test at a clinic being planned in August at Shadow Hills High School. Parents can also choose to have their child tested at a RUHS community health center in Indio or Palm Springs at no cost. Additionally, students who receive the notification letter can opt to be tested by their own health care provider.

“While the risk of infection is low, it’s important that parents who receive the notification letter get their child tested,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County, said in the release. “The testing is quick and can provide peace of mind for both parents and children.”

If the skin test reads positive, the individual will get a chest x-ray and follow up with an appropriate provider. The x-ray will help determine whether an individual might simply have been exposed to the illness rather than having active TB.

Those who do not receive notification letter are considered not to be at risk for exposure and should not be tested for tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is a disease spread through the air during prolonged, repeated and close contact with an individual who is infected with active tuberculosis. People may contract TB when breathing air exhaled by someone who is sick with TB. When left untreated, TB can result in complications that can be serious.

Tuberculosis is not spread by shaking hands, sharing food or drink, or via bed linens or toilet seats. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. A person with inactive (latent) tuberculosis cannot spread it to others.

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  • tuberculosis: Shutterstock