More than 70 students at Coronado retested for TB after lab error

Students at Coronado High School who were tested for tuberculosis Nov. 19 were retested Tuesday after a problem with the original tests.

Between 76 and 78 individuals were retested at the high school by the health district, officials said. It is unclear if any staff were also retested.

“There was a problem at the lab where we sent the samples,” Southern Nevada Health District spokeswoman Stephanie Bethel said. “There was a problem with how they handled or processed some of the testing. They couldn’t read the tests.”

There were about 100 students a day who were tested over a three-day period last week after an individual at Coronado was diagnosed with active pulmonary tuberculosis, according to the health district.

The testing began a week after the school notified parents about the possible exposure. Health and school officials have not identified the person with TB.

Coronado is the second largest school in the Clark County School District.

TB, which usually attacks the lungs, is contracted by breathing in the bacteria directly from the infected person who may be coughing, sneezing or simply speaking. A contagious person will be sick and may even be coughing up blood.

Even though TB may take longer to show in a blood test, officials expect the results may yield a positive case or two for “latent” TB, health district spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore said. That means the individual probably had TB before and never knew it, Sizemore said.

Although deadly, TB bacteria can infect a person but remain inactive in their system. This is called latent TB.

A person with latent TB would test positive but their body has been able to fight the bacteria and keep it from making them sick. Many with latent TB could have it their whole lives without developing the disease or becoming infected and sick, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC regards TB as “one of the world’s deadliest diseases,” with 9,945 new U.S. cases in 2012.

For any TB cases identified, the patient would be given an oral medication to eradicate the bacteria.

Nevada consistently ranks among the top 20 states for its rate of TB cases, reporting about 100 newly diagnosed cases a year, according to the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health. Clark County usually accounts for more than 80 percent of new cases each year, making its TB case rate of 3.4 per 100,000 people higher than the 3.2 national average.

Contact reporter Rochel Leah Goldblatt at rgoldblatt@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0264.