Children attending east Macon’s Neighborhood Academy should be tested for tuberculosis after a 9-month-old boy was diagnosed with the deadly disease last week.
The North Central Health District received word July 25 from The Medical Center of Central Georgia and began investigating the source of the contamination and the strain of the bacteria.
“There’s another child that is suspected of having TB, but we don’t have the confirmatory test back to say that it’s a definite case,” said Dr. David Harvey, district health director, during a Thursday afternoon news conference.
Investigators are still looking for the source.
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“It’s possible that it could have been a day care worker that worked within the academy that had been diagnosed with TB earlier,” Harvey said.
Genomic testing will be needed to determine whether all three could have the same strain.
The day care on Millerfield Road remains open because the disease is spread through the air, not surface contamination.
The baby is on a mandatory, six-month period of observation.
“He’s at home, and I visited him (Wednesday) night, so he’s doing well,” said Beverlyn Ming, Bibb County nurse manager.
Jennifer Jones, the public information director for the North Central Health District, said children who came in contact with the infected infant should have chest X-rays and skin tests, which will be provided free of charge beginning Monday.
Parents were given letters Thursday afternoon detailing testing and treatment options.
All children younger than 4 also will be medicated as a precaution, because skin tests can be unreliable in the young, Harvey said.
Daylon Martin, the director of the day care who also is a Jones County commissioner, said a parent of the sick baby notified the staff last Friday of the child’s illness.
The center contacted the health department and drafted a letter to parents warning of the possibility of contracting tuberculosis.
“Any parent that has done the research is reasonably confident,” Martin said. “We’ve all heard horror stories but when a young child contracts TB, they can’t expel the germ as well. If it was adults, it would be a whole different story.”
Ming said there is no need to be fearful.
“If a patient takes their medication, there is no danger,” she said.
The health department will brief parents late Friday afternoon and take questions about tuberculosis.
The day care center’s staff started TB testing Saturday, but no one has had a positive result so far, Martin said.
Harvey said the chances are low that other children will test positive.
Jones concurred that tuberculosis is harder to catch from children, but the disease still has serious consequences for the young.
“Tuberculosis settles deep, deep in the lungs so you really have to cough hard to expel it,” Jones said. “Our concern is, it might be harder to spread, but if they do get it, (children) can have an increased risk of serious complications.”
As soon as the district learned of the case, workers started investigating who came into contact with the baby.
Georgia law also requires someone from the health department witness the infected patient’s treatment.
“We watch them take their medicine for the entire duration,” said Ronnie Boone, the district’s infectious disease program manager.
If patients do not complete the treatment, they could create drug resistant strains of tuberculosis that threaten a larger segment of the population.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, TB symptoms vary depending on where in the body the bacteria is growing.
While it usually is present in the lungs, it also can manifest in other places such as the kidneys, spine and brain.
Symptoms may include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or phlegm from deep inside the lungs, weakness or fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, night sweats, chills and fever.
Not everyone who is infected with TB bacteria gets sick.
Those carriers without symptoms will not spread the bacteria, according to the CDC.
The bacteria passes through the air after an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings.
You cannot catch tuberculosis by shaking hands, kissing or by sharing food, drinks or toothbrushes.
For more information, Bibb County health administrator Nancy White encourages the public to visit the website northcentralhealthdistrict.org.
“It’s been amazing, to me, the tenacity with which the team has approached this reported TB case,” said White, who joined the staff in May.
She wants the public to understand that “TB is preventable and it’s treatable and curable, and much of all this activity is done in the utmost spirit of precaution.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.