Pediatric specialist says said TB is not a disease often seen in children in the U.S.
Tuberculosis testing was conducted last week at D.H. Conley High School, after someone was diagnosed with the lung infection and the Pitt County Health Department identified about 130 students and 20 staff members as potential contacts.
Medical privacy laws prevent health officials from giving any identifying details about the person with TB, but Dr. Vandana Madhavan -- a pediatric disease specialist at Mass General for Children -- said it’s not a disease often seen in children in the U.S.
"In 2021, there were nearly 8,000 cases of active tuberculosis or tuberculosis disease in the US, and of those, about 4% were in children,” she said.
She said only those under age 16 are considered pediatric patients because the disease acts the same in the body of those 16 and older as it does in adults, but it can be worse for smaller children with a latent infection.
Dr. Madhavan said, “An infant, for example, they have a 50% chance of progressing to lung disease and a several percent chance of progressing to more severe meningitis or miliary disease.”
Miliary tuberculosis is a potentially life-threatening type of tuberculosis that occurs when a large number of the bacteria travel through the bloodstream and spread throughout the body.
Dr. Madhavan says the illness is less often spread by children.
"Typically, children are not contagious to others,” she said, “But a child with tuberculosis, even if it's a latent infection and not causing symptoms, means that someone recently gave that child tuberculosis and so therefore that means that there is recent spread of tuberculosis in the community.”
According to the National Library of Medicine, there were just over 160 cases on TB in 2022.