William Fleming High School prepares for second phase of T.B. te - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

William Fleming High School prepares for second phase of T.B. testing

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The public first learned about a case of tuberculosis at William Fleming High School on November 25th.  

Since that time, there has been a series of tests for students and staff as public health and school officials worked to stay ahead of an outbreak of the potentially deadly disease.

"The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts have not conducted an investigation like this involving a school system. We do investigate cases of TB as they occur but there has not been one requiring this number of tests or amount of collaboration since I have been here," said Dr. Stephanie Harper, Director of Roanoke City Health District, who has held that position for a little more than 7 years.

Archie Freeman, principal of William Fleming High School says, even with the TB investigation, students have been focused on their work at school, and that disruptions have been minimal.

Meanwhile, school and health officials have been evaluating the test results, which have shown little evidence there may be additional cases of T.B.

Specifically, on December 13 The Roanoke City Health Department stated in a news release, “There have been some with positive skin tests and these individuals were referred for a chest X-ray.  To date, all of those who received a chest X-ray have shown no signs of active disease.”

Despite the fact that no new cases have emerged, many parents had questions for the health department.  Using the Freedom of Information Act, WSLS was able to learn more about the actions of school and health officials immediately after they became aware of the threat.

What follows are key developments as outlined in information provided to WSLS:

November 25th, the day school leaders released information about a student sick with T.B. at William Fleming officials conducted an environmental assessment at the school. About a half a dozen officials checked the HVAC system.  
Since William Fleming is a newer school officials had little concern about "environmental exposure to the recent diagnosed case of tuberculosis," being spread through the HVAC system.  The tests confirmed that there was little need for concern.

On November 26th, plans emerged for the health department to start working on "identifying exposed (students and staff,) and a plan for getting them evaluated..."

"I just want our students and parents to be treated the way I would like to be treated," said Roanoke Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Rita Bishop in a recent interview.

Ultimately, officials determined that one hundred and fifty students and staff would need to be tested. 
The first testing took place on Friday, December 6, and by December 13 officials reported that they had tested 90 percent of those identified as being at risk.

Those students and staff who were tested in phase one, will be re-tested on January 28th and 30th.

Dr. Bishop hopes to be able to provide testing for all William Fleming students whose parents request it.

"I don't want anybody to be afraid or concerned about a medical issue. If there is any way I can possibly afford to do this, and I know Mr. Freeman would do everything possible to make this happen for his families," she said.

One test at a time, officials say the goal is health and wellness for all of the students.

Freeman says, "We think this of course, has been an obstacle that we have to overcome and they are continuing to focus on their studies."

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