School, DOH outline plan to test McKinley Students for TB

Ron Okamura
Ron Okamura

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There's a public health scare at McKinley High School. Parents want to know what's being done to stop the spread of tuberculosis. This comes after a sophomore tested positive at the end of September for the contagious and potentially deadly disease.

At a public meeting on Friday night, the school and the Department of Health laid out their plan to stop this case of TB. The disease mainly affects the lungs but can also attack the kidney, brain and spine.

"It's concerning any time you have an infectious disease that comes onto your campus in kind of an enclosed area," said McKinley Principal Ron Okamura. "You want to take as much precaution as you can."

On Tuesday, they'll be doing skin tests on 198 students and staff who were friends with the student or who shared a classroom. They'll follow up on those tests in December to make sure the disease is not spreading.

"Fortunately, the student at McKinley is not believed to be very contagious," said DOH Public Health Advisor Derrick Felix. "We hope to find no one else who has TB disease."

Parents were notified of the situation by letters sent out Thursday but just five showed up to the meeting, along with one student. They're concerned about their kids contracting the airborne disease in the classroom, hallways, or even on the bus.

"All the windows are going to be up with at least 30 to 40 kids breathing the same air," said Dicky Chiu, the parent of a senior at the high school. "So I'm just trying to make sure not every one is going to be infected."

The DOH says buses should be safe and only people with prolonged exposure to the infected student are at risk. It's not clear how the sophomore contracted the disease but the DOH says what is certain, is that the student won't be allowed back to the school or any public places until they're no longer contagious.  That person will be held in home isolation.

The school met with the classmates of the infected student in an earlier meeting on Friday, along with the parents of those classmates. The school is contacting anyone who will need to be tested.

All students are required to be tested for TB before going to school. The DOH says the infected student was tested in 2007 and did not test positive at that time. The DOH says the student started feeling sick, was retested, and at that point, was diagnosed with the sickness.

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