A little more than a month after health officials announced a case of tuberculosis at an east Macon day care, they are confident that the disease has not spread further.
“We do believe it has stopped,” said Jennifer Jones, public information officer for the North Central Health District.
After a 9-month-old attending the Neighborhood Academy initially was diagnosed, a 4-month-old at the center was also confirmed to have TB.
Although genomic testing was not done, health investigators believe they have found the source.
“From a logical standpoint, we believe we have found the index case and they are compliant,” Jones said. “Since we have found it, we believe we have stopped any future cases.”
Once the health department gets word of a confirmed case of the disease, a nurse visits the patient and puts together a treatment plan, said Ronnie Boone, infectious disease program manager for the district.
The infected person is told to wear a mask until the bacteria clears or remain home.
After at least two weeks of medicine and three negative smear tests, a doctor can release a patient from observation, Boone said.
All diagnosed TB cases are reported to the health department, but often patients don’t know they have it.
“It’s mistaken as bronchitis because physicians are not looking at TB because it’s not as common as it was 20 years ago,” Boone said.
The district typically monitors seven or eight cases at a time.
If a patient does not comply with treatment and make themselves available for health workers to witness them taking medication, they can be taken to court.
“A judge can order them to go to a prison hospital in Columbia, South Carolina,” Boone said.
The district is confident the babies and the index case are complying with procedures.
About 160 people connected to the day care on Millerfield Road have been tested since last month.
Although an initial report said 135 youngsters could be affected at the center, only 66 children had been tested as of Wednesday, Jones said. Nearly 50 workers and about as many family members were tested.
It was not immediately clear if more than 50 percent of the children were not tested, or if the original 135 number included the staff and volunteers.
TB only spreads when symptoms are present.
Due to privacy regulations, the health department would not give details on the patient believed to be the source of the bacteria that infected the babies.
“Whether the index case was a former employee or not, we would have tested anyway, because that’s just in the best interest of children in the day care,” Jones said.
Jones was adamant that the health department was not advised of any TB cases involving workers or children at the center before the 9-month-old was diagnosed.
“We would not have let someone who we knew had TB work in any place where they would have contact with people, especially in a day care,” Jones said.
Health investigators do not believe any health rules or safety violations were broken that could have led to the infection spreading.
“Anyone of us can come into contact with someone who doesn’t know they have TB any day,” she said.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.