Tuberculosis is spreading in Olathe. How worried should the Kansas City metro be?
After an Olathe student tested positive for tuberculosis, four additional cases have been confirmed in the high school. Dr. Doug Swanson, an infectious diseases specialist at Children's Mercy Hospital, shares what symptoms to look for and if the public should be concerned about a wider outbreak.
After an Olathe Northwest High School student was diagnosed with active tuberculosis —a contagious disease that's not widespread in the United States— the Johnson County Health Department recommended the more than 400 individuals who may have been exposed be tested for the bacteria.
Four additional people have since been diagnosed. But Dr. Doug Swanson, an infectious diseases specialist at Children's Mercy Hospital, said the cluster of cases shouldn't be concerning.
"If you look at the numbers, in Missouri and in Kansas, they go up and down a little bit every year, and this is just a little blip," Swanson said.
The illness takes shape in two different forms: latent tuberculosis and tuberculosis disease.
Those infected with latent tuberculosis don't have symptoms and are not contagious. Those with tuberculosis diseases or active TB may experience a long-lasting productive cough, fevers, fatigue and weight loss among other symptoms.
The bacteria can take weeks to grow and individuals should be retested between 8-10 weeks after initial exposure.
"It's a very slow process. So this is not an emergency," Swanson said. "But it's important to get evaluated."