A positive case of TB at a YMCA daycare has prompted widespread testing for the potentially fatal disease
Widespread testing for tuberculosis is underway in Omaha after officials discovered a positive case of the potentially fatal disease at a drop-in daycare within a local YMCA.
More than 500 people — including children and staff — are being tested, as the window for exposure to the infectious patient spreads from late May to October.
Caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, tuberculosis, or TB, traditionally affects the lungs. However, as the CDC points out, “TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain.”
And as the CDC explains, “not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick.” Called a “latent TB infection,” those with the bacteria — but no symptoms — “can’t spread TB bacteria to others,” the CDC says.
However, if latent TB is not treated, that person may develop an active infection — which would then make them contagious.
Although the Omaha patient’s age and gender were not released, The Douglas County Health Department issued a statement saying they were “investigating the patient’s activities while they were contagious to learn of potential exposures, helping the patient isolate, and observing them complete their medication until they test negative for TB. DCHD also is working to notify parents of children and anyone else who had close contact with the patient. Testing for tuberculosis is only recommended for those who had close contact on one or more occasions.”
“This is one of the vintage public health diseases,” Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse told USA Today, pointing to long-standing measures in place to respond to an outbreak of TB, previously known as "consumption." And while it’s not unusual to find an active TB case in America, Huse told the outlet, “what is unusual is just the size of exposure.”
Last year, 8,300 cases of TB were reported in the United States, the CDC says, with more than 20% of those cases coming from California. And just last week, a casino in California reported a tuberculosis outbreak.
Symptoms of tuberculosis include chest pain and a persistent cough accompanied by blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs), the CDC says.
But as the Mayo Clinic points out, symptoms in children vary: Those under 12 may have a fever and weight loss, while infants “may have symptoms from swelling in the fluid around the brain or spinal cord.”
If you have an active TB infection, treatment may last up to a year, according to the American Lung Association, which cautions that stopping medication — generally a combination of antibiotics — too soon can contribute to drug-resistant TB.
That form of tuberculosis may take up to 30 months to treat.
According to the Douglas County Health Department alert, children under 4 who were exposed at the Omaha YMCA will be receive a chest X-ray — and be treated preventatively to avoid developing TB.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.