Sullivan Central families weigh in at Tuberculosis information session

BLOUNTVILLE, TN (WJHL) – Starting Tuesday, dozens of people with ties to Sullivan Central High School will undergo tests to see if they were possibly exposed to Tuberculosis and Monday night school and health leaders gave the community the chance to ask questions.

Last Thursday, county school leaders and health officials notified students and families that someone connected to the school had tested positive for TB.

Monday night, health officials revealed that person is isolated and undergoing treatment. School officials still haven’t said if the person is a student.

Nearly two dozen people came out to the meeting hosted by the Sullivan County Health Department and the Director of Schools to find out more about Tuberculosis and to ask questions.

Dr. Stephen May of the Sullivan County Health Department started the meeting at the Sullivan County Department of Education with a slideshow presentation to teach people more about TB.

“Good thing to know is TB is spread in the air,” Dr. May said as he started off the presentation. He also discussed things like TB symptoms, how it originates in the body and what to watch out for.

The health department said they’ve notified around 35 people who’re at the highest risk of exposure to TB and testing will begin Tuesday.

When it came time for audience questions, parents like Anthony Poland spoke up.

“It’s my child, I would have liked to have had her tested sooner,” Poland said concerning his two daughters at Sullivan Central.

He asked more about how long county school leaders knew about the case.

Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said they told parents as soon as they could.

“As soon as we got the word and we started working through this we got a letter out in less actually than 48 hours so I do feel good about that timeline,” Rafalowkski said.

Poland said he still wants his daughters tested.

“Actually I’m just going to call my own personal physician and have my children checked,” Poland said.

But Dr. May said protocol is to only test those who were in close range of the infected person for hours and who are at the highest risk of exposure.

Dr. David Kirschke, Health Officer for the Northeast Regional Health Department and TB physician for the northeast region also spoke at the meeting and answered questions.

“We use scientific evidence to determine who and what should be done working with experts like Dr. Kirschke. We have to follow the science, with that science there can be harm in doing unnecessary testing that can lead to unnecessary treatment and so it’s important that we test the right people at the right time,” Dr. May said.

School leaders reiterated Monday night, the situation is under control. Rafalowski said she wants to make sure parents are comfortable.

“I want them to feel comfortable and I want them to feel confident about sending their child to school. There’s no reason at all to keep them home,” Rafalowski said.

Rafalowski added that if anyone has questions they’re encouraged to contact the health department or her office. She said she’s happy to talk to parents and meet with them. She’s also encouraging parents to talk to their primary care physician if they have questions.

Dr. May also recommends visiting the CDC’s website or for more information. He also said you can call the health department at 423-279-2777.

Health officials said results of the tests should be back in about a week.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.




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