The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County (DOH-Pinellas) is investigating a suspected case of tuberculosis (TB) in a 17-year-old student at Pinellas Park High School.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria/CDC
Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria/CDC

In a notice to parents, school principal, John Johnston notes: To ensure the health and well-being of all our students, the Department of Health will provide screening services free of charge with parent permission for students identified as having had close contact with the impacted student. The screenings will be offered at our school.

A letter was sent home with students that includes details on whether or not your student was recommended for screening. Screenings will take place on our campus April 27-28. You may also choose to complete a screening with your family’s health care provider. Additionally, the screening can be completed at the St. Petersburg Center of the Florida Department of Health at 205 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street North St. Petersburg, Florida.

Johnston would not disclose the identity of the student due to confidentiality laws.

TB is spread through the air when people who have an active TB infection cough, sneeze or transmit respiratory fluids. TB spreads slowly, so additional tests by DOH-Pinellas will follow in 8 to 10 weeks.

TB is a disease caused by bacteria that mainly infects the lungs, although it can also affect other organs. With proper care, most cases can be treated with a course of antibiotics. Left untreated, TB can persist for years and be fatal. The rate of tuberculosis varies by geography: In Asian and African nations, rates are much higher than in developed countries.

In 2014, there were 25 reported cases of TB in the county. In February, the Florida Department of Health announced historic lows for the incidence of TB statewide. For four consecutive years, annual cases of active TB have declined by nearly 29 percent.

The symptoms of TB may include: A cough lasting three or more weeks that may produce discolored or bloody sputum; unintended weight loss; fatigue; slight fever; night sweats; chills; loss of appetite and pain with breathing or coughing.