The county Health Department is offering free tuberculosis (TB) testing to riders of three commuter buses, in response to one rider who may have the disease.
On Aug. 6, the Health Department was notified that a resident had been identified as most likely sick with TB, and on Aug. 13, determined the resident was commuted to and from Washington, D.C., on the DC25W, DS26 and LC25 buses.
Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Health Department, suggested commuters who spent a total of eight hours on the three buses between April 1 and July 16, get tested for the infectious disease.
"Frequent commuters on any of these three buses should really get tested," he said. "People who traveled to D.C. one or two times aren’t at a risk."
ACCORDING TO Goodfriend, TB is an infectious disease, but it is not like the cold or the flu.
"You need direct, person-to-person contact with the person who is infected," he said.
TB is most commonly spread by coughing or sneezing in a small area. The bacteria from the infected person must go directly into another person’s lungs, in order to spread the disease.
"Unlike many infections that just have to get into the mouth, TB has to get down into the lungs," Goodfriend said.
While TB is more difficult to spread than the common cold, the doctor suggested commuters on these buses get tested.
FREQUENT COMMUTERS on the DC25W, DS26 and LC25 buses can be tested for free at the Loudoun County Health Department, 102 Heritage Way, N.E., in Leesburg. The department will hold two testing sessions: Monday, Aug. 20, and Monday, Aug. 27, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., with follow-up visits two days later.
Complimentary bus service from Dulles North and Dulles South park-and-ride lots to the Health Department will be provided both days.
Goodfriend said there are about 16 cases of TB reported in the county every year and approximately 200 cases reported through out Northern Virginia yearly.
"Normally, when someone has TB the media doesn’t know about it," Goodfriend said. "In this case, we got the media involved because we don’t know who might be infected."
TB is usually treatable with antibiotics.
"We have about 200 people with TB in the area and I’m not aware of any of them that didn’t respond to some type of antibiotics."