Fairfax County Following reports that as many as 430 students and faculty at Robert E. Lee High School could have been exposed to tuberculosis, Fairfax County Health Department officials set up a special clinic on Friday, June 21, to provide testing and information on the infectious disease.
Three people within the Lee High School community have been identified as having active TB. One person was diagnosed in December 2012, and two were diagnosed in June.
“Currently, the Health Department has asked approximately 430 people who have been identified as potentially exposed to individuals with active TB disease in the school to get tested at special clinics being held in the high school June 21 and June 24-28,” said Glen Barbour, the Health Department’s public information officer.
“These 430 individuals are being tested at this special clinic because they met the time and proximity TB exposure criteria that the Health Department is using in this investigation,” he said.
Only those Robert E. Lee High School individuals who received a letter from the Health Department need to attend the special clinics at the school.
According to Fairfax County health officials, families who received a letter from the Health Department should call 703-267-3511, TTY 711 to make an appointment. Families who have questions about the investigation or the disease should call the same number for information.
Individuals who did not receive a letter from the Health Department are not considered at risk of exposure and therefore do not need to be tested; however, individuals that want to be tested may do so with their health care provider or at one of the Health Department’s five District Offices.
On June 20, the Health Department, in cooperation with Fairfax County Public Schools, initiated a broad tuberculosis (TB) investigation at Lee High School to identify people who may have had contact with three individuals at the school who have been diagnosed with active TB disease. The first individual was diagnosed in December 2012 and an investigation was initiated and completed at that time. Two additional individuals from the same school were diagnosed with active TB disease in June of this year.
Each year, the Health Department identifies about 90 people who have active TB disease.
However, because these two new cases occurred in the same school, the Health Department decided to reopen the December case. All three cases are being reviewed together to determine if there is any association between them.
On June 17, letters were mailed to all Robert E. Lee High School students and faculty informing them of the Health Department’s TB investigation.
Health officials emphasized that community members who have attended graduation celebrations and other events involving Robert E. Lee High School students and faculty do not meet the exposure criteria and therefore do not need to be tested. There is no ongoing risk of exposure to TB at Robert E. Lee High School as a result of the current contact investigation.
About one third of the world’s population has latent TB infection, which means they have been infected by the TB germs but do not feel sick or have any symptoms and cannot spread the germs to others. People who have latent TB infection and do not receive treatment are at risk of becoming ill with active TB disease, which is highly contagious.
For this reason, the Fairfax County Health Department strongly encourages individuals who have latent TB infection to take preventative treatment. TB is preventable and curable if all prescribed medications are taken properly.
Symptoms of active TB disease include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer; pain in the chest; coughing up blood or sputum; weakness or fatigue; weight loss; no appetite; chills; fever; and sweating at night. To learn more about TB visit www.cdc.gov/tb.