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TB Outbreaks in Texas Schools Show Disease Still a Threat
Date:10/15/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Outbreaks among young people in Texas of the old foe tuberculosis -- often mistakenly dismissed as a long-ago health menace now confined to the pages of a Charles Dickens novel -- show that the respiratory disease is still easily contracted and remains a potential threat to Americans, experts say.

"Tuberculosis has always been with us and probably always will be," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

At least 100 people have tested positive for tuberculosis (TB) on skin tests in Ennis, Texas, about 40 miles south of Dallas, including several students at the local high school. The testing was done after a teacher was diagnosed with TB before the start of the school year.

And the University of North Texas in Denton -- about 70 miles away -- recommended that 27 people who had had contact with a student diagnosed with a suspected case of TB also be tested, according to local news reports.

A student at Denton High School also has suspected TB after transferring from Ennis High, although health authorities insist there is no link between the University of North Texas cases and the one at Denton High.

"TB is spread by the respiratory-droplet route, so coughing, talking, singing, breathing, even sitting in front of somebody in an airplane" can put a person at risk, Horovitz explained. "It's air-borne but it has to be in a certain range. It could be in the same room. It's very easily contracted."

While it's no longer the scourge of centuries past, about 11,000 cases of TB were reported last year in the United States, the lowest rate ever. California, Florida, New York and Texas together accounted for half of these cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"When looking at the populations hardest-hit by TB -- racial/ethnic minorities and for
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