Health officials in Seattle and King County, Washington are investigating two active tuberculosis (TB) cases at a local high school.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria/CDC
Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria/CDC

Over the past three months, two people at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines have been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB). The first person was found with infectious TB in early January, the second in late March. Both individuals are being treated to ensure a full recovery.

At this time, investigation by health officials has found no evidence that TB was acquired at school. Both people have other risk factors for TB that are unrelated to the school environment. However, out of an abundance of caution, public health officials are recommending that all 1700 students and staff at Mount Rainier High School get TB tests.

“We have not found a link that suggests the infection was passed at the school. But we are examining every possibility, and that’s why we’re recommending TB testing for all students and staff at this time,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Interim Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“TB is not particularly infectious under typical circumstances. It is different from a cold or the flu, for example, which is easily spread from person to person,” said Dr. Masa Narita, TB Control Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “But tuberculosis is a very serious disease. It is also treatable with antibiotics, which is another good reason to get the free test.”

Students and staff will be offered free TB testing upon return from spring break, the week of April 13. The school community is receiving instructions on how to get their free TB test, as well as information on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of TB.

“The health and safety of our students and staff is a top priority, and we encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to be tested,” said Aimee Denver, Highline Public Schools Director of Health and Social Services.

The TB test shows whether a person has been infected with TB. Since it can take up to two months after TB exposure for an infected person’s body to react to a TB test, re-testing is planned for mid-May.