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Tuberculosis case at day care exposes 500 children; emergency declared

Hundreds of preschoolers and others potentially exposed to someone with tuberculosis at a Nebraska YMCA day care will need to be tested.
Tuberculosis case at day care exposes 500 children; emergency declared
Posted at 12:01 PM, Nov 14, 2023

An active case of tuberculosis at a Nebraska day care has left over 500 children exposed to the disease.

A case of the illness was confirmed at Westview YMCA in Omaha.

In response, the Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) has declared a public health emergency.

DCHD and its partners had been working to determine those who may have been in close contact with the infected patient and notify parents. Hundreds of preschoolers and others potentially exposed will need to be tested.

Possible exposures would have happened from late spring into late October, the health department said.

"The Douglas County Health Department is investigating the patient's activities while they were contagious to learn of potential exposures, helping the patient isolate, and observing them complete their medication until they test negative for TB," DCHD said in a press release.

A clinic set up by Children's Nebraska over the weekend tested children 4 years of age and under who were potentially exposed in the last 10 weeks. DCHD said it will also hold clinics at Westview YMCA this Wednesday through Friday to test anyone who was identified as exposed from late May until August 21.

Parents of children or others who were exposed would have received an email on Nov. 8.

TB is caused by a bacterium called mycobacterium tuberculosis and is spread from person to person through the air — when someone coughs, speaks or sings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Signs and symptoms of TB include cough, feelings of weakness or lethargy, fever and night sweats, according to the CDC.

Most people who are exposed to TB won't even realize it, Mark Rupp, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Nebraska Medicine, told Scripps News Omaha.

But young children are more likely than older kids and adults to develop life-threatening forms of TB, the CDC said. That's because their immune systems aren't fully developed. 

Treatment for TB in children includes taking several anti-TB medications for a period of four, six or nine months, depending on the treatment regimen, the CDC said.

People can be tested for TB through a skin or blood test. 

Bacille Calmette-Guérin, or BCG is a vaccine that helps prevent against TB, but it is not commonly administered in the U.S. That's because of the "low risk of infection with TB bacteria and the variable effectiveness of the vaccine," the CDC said. 

The CDC has reported over 8,000 cases of TB in the U.S. this year.

Learn more about TB and children here.

SEE MORE: Deadly tuberculosis outbreaks in US linked to tainted bone grafts

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