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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 7, 2013 (3:05 p.m. EST)

DHEC Update – TB Investigation, Greenwood County  

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has provided the following update to the tuberculosis (TB) investigation in Greenwood County:

  1. “Individuals in the school were infected by March 8.  The damage was done before the case was even referred to DHEC,” said Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Richard Ervin.  DHEC does not know the status of the index case at the time of hire.  State law (SC Code Section 44-29-150) requires testing at the point of hire for anyone working in a public or private school, or kindergarten.  The law also states anyone applying for a position in one of these settings must obtain a health certificate from a licensed physician certifying the person does not have active TB as a prerequisite of employment (SC Code Section 44-29-160). SC Regulation 61-22 requires school employees shall have a TB test prior to employment.

    “DHEC instructed the index case not to return to the school immediately upon receiving the report on March 8,” according to Director Templeton, who also noted, “Blaming DHEC for TB is like blaming a policeman for a car accident.  We are here to determine what happened and help straighten out the mess.”

    DHEC investigated and tested approximately 38 individuals, including school employees, in March and early April.  “Staff reports the school was told in March.  In addition, the school staff was heavily involved in the investigation and was being tested.  I’m not sure how the superintendent/acting principal missed it,” said Templeton.

    DHEC asked the school to send out an email distribution to parents, and actually printed and delivered the materials that went home in the students’ backpacks over the Memorial Day weekend.  Director Templeton personally called the superintendent/acting principal and asked him to send out an email to his distribution list.

    “It was DHEC who instructed the school to tell the parents about the potential exposure.  It was DHEC who offered to host a public meeting with a medical doctor so the parents could understand the risks.  It was DHEC who found funding to test the children, which was over and beyond CDC guidelines.  We are here to help.”

    DHEC activated its Emergency Operations Center earlier this week, citing this outbreak as a massive investigation with new information provided to the public as it is confirmed.  A new webpage was created and is updated regularly:  http://www.scdhec.gov/health/disease/tb/greenwood.htm.  Templeton cautioned that the test results take time, and that this will be a lengthy and comprehensive investigation:  “We are following medical protocol, and must take the time to follow the leads where they take us.  This will not be finished quickly.”
  1. As of this update, the testing totals stand as follows:

    Total number of TB skin tests = 591 (81 non-students, 487 students),
    Total number of positive TB skin test results = 63 (10 non-students, 53 students),
    Total number of abnormal chest X-ray readings = 11 (1 non-students, 10 students).

Information resulting from this investigation will be provided as it is confirmed, and in accordance with state and federal law.

To learn more about TB, visit http://www.cdc.gov/tb   

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For media inquiries:
Mark Plowden – (803) 898-9518
Email – Mark.Plowden@dhec.sc.gov