Tuberculosis screenings underway at Akron school after positive test

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AKRON - Tuberculosis screenings are underway at Akron’s Jennings Community Learning Center after someone there contracted the disease.

Summit County Public Health isn’t identifying the infected person, and isn’t specifying if the person is a student or staff member. The diagnosis was made on March 30.

Health leaders are tracing close contacts and offering free screenings to students and staff at the school. Health officials said the risk of exposure among the school’s 600 students is low, but they're not taking any chances.

“It's a very high anxiety-producing disease, so even though the risk is low compared to households, sometimes it's more prudent and more reassuring to people to be tested,” said Summit County Public Health Medical Director Marguerite Erme.

Screenings involve a series of questions relating to exposure and the injection of a small amount of protein under the skin. After 48-72 hours, health officials look for a swelling reaction. TB spreads through particles released into the air by a cough or sneeze, not through surface contact.

“It is not as contagious as other respiratory infections such as whooping cough and influenza,” Erme said, adding that Summit County averages five cases each year.

Symptoms include fever, unexplained weight loss, drenching night sweats and persistent coughing. Health officials recommend anyone with symptoms contact their health provider. Tuberculosis is treated with antibiotics over the course of several months.

“It's scary,” said parent, Dawn Deitz, who brought her two 6th graders in for testing. “I'm just glad they're being proactive and taking the steps to make sure it doesn’t spread any further than it already has.”

Screenings will continue at the school from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, with reads being taken Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. A second round of screenings will take place in 8-10 weeks.

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