Twenty-five parents came to Hammond High School last week with a slew of questions prompted by the news that a student had contracted tuberculosis.
Donna Heller, coordinator of health services for county schools, said the questions during the session, which lasted about an hour, included: How is the disease spread? What criteria are used to determine who had been exposed? When were the letters sent informing the people who were exposed?
"It was really a very calm and professional group asking a lot of professional questions," Heller said about the meeting, which was held on Tuesday. "They did thank us at the end for providing information."
The students and staffers at Hammond were told of the diagnosis Monday. Letters were sent Saturday to 50 students who ride the bus with the student, warning of possible exposure and urging them to get tested. Eight people -- family members and friends of the student -- have been tested for the disease, with the results coming back negative, authorities have said.
As of Thursday, Howard County health officials had reported no new cases.
Tuberculosis is an air-borne communicable disease caused by bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. It usually attacks the lungs, but can attack any part of the body. If not treated properly, the condition can be fatal.
The 50 people who rode the bus with the infected student were asked to come to Hammond on Friday to be interviewed to determine whether each was in need of a skin test that detects the infection.
The results of the skin test are expected to be available tomorrow, said Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the county health officer.
Taking a stand against cyber-bullying has its perks. Ask the three county students who got to have lunch recently with Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin.
The students were the top three finishers in the county's anti-bullying poster contest. This year's theme was cyber-bullying prevention and Internet safety.
Laura Celtnicks, a seventh-grader at Oakland Mills Middle, won first place with her poster titled "Pull the plug on cyber bullying." Laura's poster will be reproduced, and a copy will be displayed in every county school.
Second place went to Keara Lopez, a third-grader at Guilford Elementary. Honorable mention went to Ashley Harman, a Veterans Elementary third-grader.
The students also attended the Feb. 21 school board meeting, where they received certificates of merit.
"It's to raise awareness in the schools and in the community," said Pamela Blackwell, student services director for the school system and coordinator of the contest. "This year, because of all the information out there about cyber-bullying, we thought this was a good theme."
The contest dovetails with the county's anti-bullying policy and with the school system's goal to provide a safe and nurturing environment, Cousin said.
The Lazarus Foundation of Columbia provided the winners with gift cards to Borders Books, Target and Pizza Hut, Blackwell said.