TB Case Sparks Concern at Long Island High School

Officials say unnamed person is receiving treatment and not contagious

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Commack High School on Long Island confirms someone at the school has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, sparking concern among parents. Greg Cergol reports. (Published Thursday, Oct 13, 2011)

    A person affiliated with Commack High School on Long Island has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, the school said Tuesday.

    School officials alerted parents by letter and through the district's website, though they would not say whether the afflicted person was a student or staff member. The unidentified person is now in stable condition, according to Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken, but parents were still concerned.

    "It's very, very scary. I am freaked," said Lori, the mother of an 11th-grader who didn't want to give her last name. "How does TB get into our school?"

    Health officials believe the infected individual came in close contact with at least 400 others in the school. All 400 may have to be tested for TB exposure.

    "Shame on that person," said Gina Chiarenza, the mother of three high school students.

    Tuberculosis can be spread only through coughing or sneezing at close range.

    "Somebody has to have close and persistent contact, and the person who is infected has to sneeze or cough in close proximity," said Dr. Tomarken.

    A simple skin test can determine whether a person has come in contact with TB, and health officials are now trying to identify all those who should be tested. The process could take several days, but some parents won't wait to get their kids examined.

    "It's your child. Would you wait?" asked Sandro Femis, the father of a high school girl.

    Tuberculosis is treatable, said Dr. Tomarken, but it could take up to a year to cure.

    Suffolk County's health department will conduct two information sessions at the high school Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m.

    "The public should remain calm," added Dr. Tomarken.

    "I'm not worried, just cautious," said Dan Guaglione, the father of a high school student.

    For more information on TB, visit www.cdc.gov/tb.

    Follow Greg Cergol on Twitter @GregCergol4NY