What You Should Know About Tuberculosis Testing

A positive test result doesn't necessarily mean you have the disease.

No need to be alarmed.

Following last week’s case of in Lakewood, the experts noted that a positive test result doesn't necessarily mean someone has the disease.

"That will be pretty common," said Dr. Scott Mahan, director of the Cuyahoga County Tuberculosis Program, noting that about 30 of every 1,000 people tested show a positive test result.

"That doesn't mean they have active TB, just that they've been exposed to it."

Latent tuberculosis bacteria can show up as a positive test result, but there is only about a 10 percent risk of that turning into an active infection, Mahan said.

The most common symptoms of tuberculosis are similar to those of the common cold: fever, coughing, night sweats and significant weight loss. 

"You only should be worried if you're getting treatment and your symptoms aren't getting better," Mahan said.

County health officials say that the risk of the single case spreading is very low due to the way tuberculosis, a respiratory infection, is spread.

On Friday, Lakewood school officials confirmed that someone at , at , has tested positive for tuberculosis.

But officials aren’t saying whether it was a teacher or a student. 

The case was confirmed through the TB Clinic at MetroHealth Medical Center. 

The person was diagnosed over winter break and has not returned to school, according to a news release.

"People are at a really low risk for this," said Christina Karas, spokesperson for MetroHealth. "TB used to be a major cause of death, and people get nervous when they hear about it because it's so uncommon now."

Only about 30 to 50 people contract TB each year in Cuyahoga County, according to Mahan.

"Say I have an active TB infection and breathe or cough or sneeze, and then you breathe that in," Karas said. "That's how it's passed. The people at risk have to be that close to each other."

Once the bacteria is out in the air, it stands little chance of surviving since sunlight and the air both kill TB. Mahan gave the example that one would have to be on a 10-hour-long international flight in close quarters to contract TB.

After a confirmed case at Westlake High School, students and staff will be offered free skin tests from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 10.

No word yet on whether it's the same case confirmed at West Shore Tech.

For more information, or to schedule a TB testing, call the Cuyahoga County Tuberculosis Program at 440-778-8083 or visit its website.


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