Person diagnosed with tuberculosis at Pearland High School

Some parents are concerned after someone was diagnosed with tuberculosis at Pearland High School. Now, the Brazoria County Health Department is investigating.  

Tuberculosis is a potentially dangerous bacterial infection primarily affecting the lungs and is typically spread in close quarters, like in a classroom. Along with notice that someone at Pearland High School has tuberculosis, also comes a bit of worry.               

It is a contagious bacterial infection that attacks the lungs and tuberculosis is usually spread through a sneeze or cough.  

"So anybody who’s been in a reasonably-close proximity to the patient for an extended amount of time has the potential for breathing in the bacteria and getting the infection in their lungs,” explains UTHealth pediatric infectious disease physician Dr. Michael Chang.

Who at Pearland High School has been in contact with the person diagnosed with tuberculosis?  

The Pearland Independent School District released the following statement: 

The (Brazoria County) health department will contact parents whose children have been identified as having close, prolonged exposure to the individual.  

"You never know who actually came in contact with the person," says concerned parent Becky Valdez. 

The symptoms of tuberculosis include coughing, fever, night sweats and weight loss over time.  

Dr. Chang says it typically takes months before someone shows signs of having tuberculosis.  

“If you’re going to develop the disease, most of the time you’ll develop within one-to-three months,” adds Dr. Chang. Although he says the bacteria can linger in your body.  

“We’ve even had patients who develop systems years after their initial exposure," says Dr. Chang.

Tuberculosis is rare in the U.S., however, Houston has a greater amount of incidents compared to the rest of the nation.  

"Houston, being the great city that it is, we have a lot of foreign visitors and a lot of travelers," says Dr. Chang. "We tend to see more tuberculosis here."  

Tuberculosis is usually cured after months of taking a cocktail of antibiotics.  

“If it's untreated, it can lead to significant symptoms, bad lung disease and potentially death,” says Dr. Chang. Someone with tuberculosis can be contagious for months until they are days or even weeks into taking the prescribed medication.   

Dr. Chang also says once the source, the person with tuberculosis, is removed from the environment, typically the risk of spreading infection also goes away.  Surfaces aren’t considered a threat and he also says students shouldn’t fear touching desks or lockers or anything else. The doctor says the building likely will not have to be disinfected or decontaminated because of this diagnosis of tuberculosis at Pearland High School.