Wellborn TB testing

Linda Hannon, a disease intervention specialist for Jefferson County loads a syringe with a TB test during TB testing at Wellborn Elementary School.. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Forty-five children at Wellborn Elementary and Wellborn High School will have to get a second test for tuberculosis, state health officials say, though it’s possible none of them are infected.

“It’s not that unusual,” said Pam Barrett, who runs the tuberculosis control program at the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Tuberculosis is a lung disease that can be deadly in some developing countries, where it’s found more commonly than in the U.S. Alabama saw 120 cases of TB last year. It’s treatable with a drug regimen that lasts a few months, Barrett said.

On Wednesday, health officials gave students at the school a skin test – an injection under the skin that’s supposed to produce a reaction in people infected with TB. A second check on Friday revealed dozens of kids with reactions that might be TB – or might not. Seemingly positive results pop up in about 5 percent of people who aren’t infected, Barrett said.

“It’s very likely a majority of them are not infected,” she said.

Those 45 kids will have to get a blood test for TB, which is more accurate but more time-consuming. Barrett said state officials did a skin test first because of the large number of students being tested.

Health officials will do those blood tests as early as Monday, Barrett said, and could get results in a couple of days.

“They were very calm about it,” Barrett said of the kids. “It didn’t seem to faze them.”

Attempts to reach the principals at Wellborn High and Wellborn Elementary on Friday were unsuccessful.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.