Tuberculosis scare at Benson

Coughing that never seems to stop, loss of appetite and rapid weight loss are the most common symptoms to the deadly disease tuberculosis. This deadly virus was obtained by an Omaha Benson high school student last month. Once the school found out rumors started to spread causing some students, teachers and parents to spiral into a panic until the Douglas County Health Department stepped in to save the day.

“This is nothing to be nervous about,” DCHD Director Dr. Adi Pour said.

Tuberculosis is a disease that has been on this earth since ancient times, or that’s as far as scientist know of.  Tuberculosis is a very serious infectious disease, that causes the growth of nodules (tubercles) in the tissues and mainly affects the lungs. Around ten million people got infected with the disease last year and over a million ended up dying from it.

About one-third of the world has latent TB, which means they have been infected by TB bacteria but are not sick with the disease and cannot transmit the disease to others. To get a contagious version of the disease is really rare, you have to have a lot of close exposure with somebody else who has it because it only spreads by air when someone has very active tuberculosis in their lungs.

“While tuberculosis is contagious, contracting it requires prolonged exposure to a person with TB,” Pour said.

Such as in; coughing, spitting, talking and sneezing are all different ways that it can start to spread.  There is no one step cure for tuberculosis, but there are only multiple treatments that get rid of the TB bacteria from your lungs once and for all.

You have to take multiple treatment so you can get rid of all the TB bacteria if you want to be cured from Tuberculosis forever.  If people don’t take treatments for TB, then there is a possibility that the disease will spread and get worse causing them to die.

“I wasn’t scared when I heard about it but I was mad a little bit,” senior Kyle Rudolf said. “I think the school should have closed, and they should have had the whole school tested to make sure no one else had it or could get it.”

Due to confidentiality reason neither the school nor the health department are allowed to say which kid had the disease. Due to this a handful of kids didn’t show up to school for a few days and talked about transferring schools because they were so afraid that they would get the disease. As soon as the principal heard about this she sent out a newsletter and e-mail to assure everybody that it is very unlikely that the disease was spread and the Douglas County Health Department was here to help the school out.

“Everybody in the school is safe to come to school,” Benson principal Anita Harkins said. ” There is no reason to leave for extended issues at this point.”

The Douglas County Health Department had confirmed that 193 Benson students and twelve teachers may have been exposed to the virus and could have inherited it because they had a class with the infected student. They were all offered free blood test for tuberculosis and letters were sent home to the parents for approval to take students blood on the second week of December in the old gym.

On Thursday December 1, 2016 Benson high school and the Douglas County Health Department held an informational meeting for parents and guardians. Not too many parents were worried about the disease spreading because less than 50 showed up to learn more about it, ask questions and speak up about their concerns.

“Why are you not testing the entire school with 193 people possibly exposed?” A concerned parent asked.

The Health Department hasn’t had to test a group this large for tuberculosis since 2008 when a Central high student got sick with it.  This wasn’t their first rodeo so they came in prepared with all the supplies and the staff to take free blood samples of the students and teachers to check for the infection. The Health Department will then come back in February, 2017 to take all the patience’s blood samples again to make sure nobody has obtained tuberculosis.

“It’s a very small amount of blood, just three milliliters,” pediatrician Caitlin Pedati said.

Students and teachers were called down to the old gym where they sat down in seats while the Douglas County Health Department checked them in. Next they were called back behind a curtain one at a time where a phlebotomist was waiting with a needle to insert into their veins.

“I was freaking out because I have had horrible experiences with needles and I was terrified of getting my blood taken again,” junior Brianna Parsons said. ” When my named was called to go back I started to break down and balling my eyes out.”

Once behind the curtain students had the choice to sit or lay down on a cot with a fluffy pillow. Then the phlebotomist grabbed the rubber bands, needle, cotton balls, and other supplies to extract blood. After that the students were told to make fists so that their veins would pop out more making it easier to extract blood. Next the nurse found the veins and they cleaned that area of the skin off and said, ” You’ll feel a slight sting.”

Lastly the needle was jammed into their vein and the nurse grabbed a syringe to store the blood in. Around 30 seconds later they had enough blood and they dethatched the needle from the students and put a cotton ball and ban aide over the stab wound.

“When they started stabbing the needle into me I wanted to pass out, but the nurses were very nice and told me to think about happy things, so I thought about the ocean and that calmed me down.” Parsons said. “Even though I was thinking happy thoughts, I could still feel the pain of the needle that was in me for only 10 seconds but it felt like an eternity.”

Once the horrific experience was over students and teachers were able to go back to their classrooms and get on with their day.

“After I got my blood taken, I was relieved and I wanted to make sure I didn’t pass out so I laid on the cot for a little bit to make sure I wouldn’t pass out,” Parsons said. “The nurses kept talking to me and keeping me calm through the rest of the experience.”

Not all the students had the best luck getting their blood drawn from them and a few students had issues later on in the school day.

“It was horrible because they couldn’t find my vein the first time and had to stop because I started to get pale,” junior DajaNae Jones

“It hurt and my bruise spread, I got really sick because I’ve never gotten my blood taken and the nurse took me into her office and I threw up,” junior Alyssa Pruitt said. “The nurse said that I got light headed because it was my first time getting blood taken and my body just reacted horrible to the blood draw and I felt horrible for a few days.”

Most all of the students and faculty member have been tested and those who were got there results back last week. 7 students got calls back from the Douglas County Health Department saying they reported positive for the disease.

“Seven individuals were positive for the TB bacteria, but they most likely have latent TB infections,” Pour said.

There is no need to worry because these students most likely don’t have the contagious version of the disease and will get medication to remove it from their bodies for good.

“I have to take antibiotics every day for four months to hopefully get rid of the infection ,” Anonymous Benson student said.

This was a very horrifying event for Benson High School and hopefully the disease has hopped its way out of here once and for all.