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150 students and some staff at Ridgemont High School possibly exposed to tuberculosis

Tuesday December 4, 2018

Ottawa Public Health is investigating the possibility that 150 students and some staff at Ridgemont High School were exposed to a student with active tuberculosis.

The students, their parents and the staff have received a letter recommending they be tested for TB infection, said Ottawa Public Health.

Public health said the students and staff may have been exposed between Sept. 4 and Nov. 12.

The infected student is no longer in school, said a spokesperson for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, which is working in conjunction with Ottawa Public Health.

The statement from Public Health suggests there is currently no threat of those at the school being exposed to the TB bacteria.

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Public health is “not aware of any person currently infectious with TB disease who is attending or working at Ridgemont High School,” said the statement on Tuesday. “As a result, there is no indication of ongoing spread of TB bacteria to Ridgemont High School students or staff.”

TB bacteria can be spread through the air when a person with TB coughs.

“People who are close to the person who is sick with TB disease for an extended period of time can breathe in the TB bacteria,” said public health.

Ottawa Public Health will be set to test about 150 students and staff for TB infection beginning the week of Dec. 10. People who should be tested were sent letters on Dec. 3.

The testing will identify people with latent TB infection, which means that TB bacteria have entered the body but are dormant and not growing, said public health. People with latent infections do not feel sick. The latent condition is not contagious and people who have it cannot pass the bacteria to another person. However, without treatment, a small percentage of those with a latent TB infection may develop active TB later in life.

The most common way to test for TB infection is a skin test, according to public health. Anyone with a positive skin test should have a chest X-ray and medical assessment, said the department.

Tuberculosis usually affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, kidneys or spine. It is curable, usually by taking antibiotics for at least six months.

On Dec. 3, Ridgemont High School sent a general information letter to all students and staff explaining the situation.

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