No tuberculosis found in second tests of those exposed to infected inmate

July 28, 1995|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

Follow-up tests on county residents exposed to a Carroll County jail inmate who had infectious tuberculosis show that no one else has contracted the disease since a dozen people tested positive and were treated in February.

But county health officials said that only five of the 49 people who came in close contact with the man and need to be retested showed up for a scheduled second test on July 17. All five people tested negative again.

Donna Hopkins, the director of nursing for the county health department, said that while officials worry about the spread of the disease, the department has no legal means to require individuals to come in for testing.

"We can only encourage them, but it's very important for them to follow up," she said.

The 49 people were among a group of about 200 who were tested by the county health department in the spring after having possibly been exposed to a man with infectious tuberculosis.

The man violated state home quarantine regulations after his release from the Carroll County Detention Center Feb. 23.

After the first round of testing, the health department sent letters to 49 of the man's "close contacts" who had originally tested negative, encouraging them to be tested a second time at a July 17 clinic.

Close contacts are defined as people who "shared the same air space with him [the infected man] at some time," Ms. Hopkins said.

The health department will offer flexible testing hours for those people who did not attend the re-testing clinic.

Health officials initiated the first round of testing in February after it was discovered that an inmate at the Carroll County Detention Center had infectious tuberculosis. The man was found to have the disease during a routine health screening at the jail.

Tuberculosis is a disease of the lungs that is spread through the air, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, kidneys or spine.

After a 10-day stay at the jail, the man was released on bond and ordered by the county health department to home quarantine. The man voluntarily committed himself to a local medical facility after violating home quarantine regulations.

The man was in quarantine for less than two weeks. At the time of his release in March, health officials said he was no longer contagious.

Citing medical confidentiality laws, county health officials would not identify the man.

When asked about the man's current health, Ms. Hopkins said "I believe he's doing very well."

In the first round of testing, health department nurses tested the man's family, work and social contacts and people who might have been exposed to the him. Tests showed that 12 people tested positive for the tuberculosis organism.

A positive test indicates a person has been infected with the tuberculosis organism but does not mean the person is contagious or has active tuberculosis.

Ten of the 12 positive reactors were treated for six months with a drug that reduces the rate of growth of tuberculosis organisms in the body, Ms. Hopkins said.

People infected with the tuberculosis organism have a 10 percent chance over their lifetime of developing the active disease, health officials said. They have a greater risk of developing the disease in the first two years after infection.

The detention center medical staff conducted two rounds of testing of inmates and officers, and nobody was found to be positive, said Sgt. Brian Burk.

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