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Tuberculosis case at Sweetwater High School prompts county response

Sweetwater Union High School in National City on Aug. 3, 2020.
Alexander Nguyen
Sweetwater Union High School in National City on Aug. 3, 2020.

The county's Tuberculosis Program is working with the Sweetwater Union School District Friday to notify students and staff who were potentially exposed to tuberculosis at Sweetwater High School from July 19, 2023 to Dec. 15, 2023.

The school district and county officials have notified people at highest risk of infection, a statement from the county read. No-cost TB screening is being arranged for students who are at increased risk of infection.

"Symptoms of active TB include persistent cough, fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss," Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer, said in a statement Thursday. "Most people who become infected after exposure to tuberculosis do not get sick right away. This is called latent TB infection. Some who become infected with TB will become ill in the future, sometimes even years later, if their latent TB infection is not treated. Blood tests and skin tests are effective to determine whether someone has been infected."


According to the health agency, there were 192 TB cases in the county in 2020 and 201 people reported with active disease in 2021. In 2022, 208 people were reported with active TB disease in San Diego County.

An estimated 175,000 people in San Diego County have a latent TB infection and are at risk for developing active TB without preventive treatment, health officials said. People who test positive for TB, but who do not have symptoms of active TB, should get a chest X-ray and talk to a medical provider, as they most likely have a latent TB infection.

Tuberculosis is an airborne disease that is transmitted from person-to- person through inhalation of the bacteria from the air. The chance of infection is higher for people with prolonged indoor exposure to a person who is sick. Brief interactions with a person with contagious tuberculosis are less likely to lead to an infection than prolonged or repeated exposures, according to county officials.

Effective treatments are available to cure people who are sick from active TB. Taking medicines for latent TB infection can cure the infection and keep people from getting sick.

Individuals who would like more information on this potential exposure should call the county TB Control Program at 619-692-5565.

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