Guam – 53 students and staff have tested positive for exposure to TB at Maria Ulloa Elementary, but they are not active cases.
The results followed a school wide testing that was ordered after 1 active case was discovered last week. 587 other students and facility at the school were cleared after testing negative for exposure to the bacteria. The person with the active case will not be allowed to return until they have been medically cleared.
The CDC Controller for the Department of Public Health’s Tuberculosis Control Program, Cecil Arciaga emphasized that as of Friday, there were no active cases at the school. And while Arciaga acknowledges that the 53 who were found to be carrying the TB bacteria were “in contact with someone who had TB,” she said that “doesn’t necessarily mean that they picked it up” from the active case that occurred at the school.
She emphasized that testing for TB is done before admission to the school. So it’s possible that they could have been picked up the TB bacteria “from a family member or neighbor who had active TB.”
Arciaga also said that they are still waiting for additional test results to come in for other students and staff, and it is possible that others may being carrying the bacteria.
In addition, during the screening at Maria Ulloa, another 77 individuals were identified as having tested positive for TB in the past. They did not need to be re-test, but they still must undergo chest X-rays and a medical evaluation before they can return to the school. In addition, as of last Monday, 92 staff and students had been banned from returning to the school because the didn’t comply with the mandatory skin test required by Public Health.
The Guam Department of Public Health says, as of last year, the island’s Tuberculosis case rate was 6 times more than Hawaii and 15 times more than U.S. mainland. And island-wide last year, 102 students or staff at Guam’s Public Schools were found to be carrying the TB bacteria, but only 5 had active cases.
Those active cases occured at Simon Sanchez and Ukkodo. Arciaga says most of the cases are found in Yigo and Dededo simply because the population density is higher in the northern part of the island.
According to Arciaga, Over the past 10 years the demographics for the disease on guam were mostly made up of Filipinos and Chamorros, but recently that pattern has changed. She says, “We are seeing more and more cases among the Micronesians or those residents that come from the other islands that now live and work on Guam.”
Arciaga says people who are from the outer islands are not required to undergo medical examinations or immunizations before entering Guam, Unlike people coming in from other countries like Korea or the Philippines. They are required by U.S. Immigration laws to undergo medical examination. If they are found to have active TB, they are actually treated in their country before they are allowed or given a visa to come to the U.S. to enter the country .
Arciaga says the best preventive measure for TB is to be aware of the symptoms, if you have any of them go see a doctor.