Fear of tuberculosis sweeps high school
By Yi Whan-woo
An outbreak of active tuberculosis (TB), a contagious disease, has been reported in Goyang, northwest of Seoul.
The disease, once prevalent when the country was poor, erupted in January when a student at Goyang Foreign Language High School was diagnosed. Concerns have continued to grow as three more students also became infected while 120 others, all sophomores, tested positive as carrying the TB virus.
There are 1,302 students enrolled in the all boys high school and currently TB is affecting only the sophomores and seniors.
The school is waiting for the results of blood tests — the last part of the two-step medical testing required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — on 493 third-year students.
“We have to wait and see the results but it is suspected that the TB bacillus is active in 110 of them,” said Lee Moon-haeng, headmaster at the school
“We’ve invited the CDC officials to look into the infection and explain the situation to school parents on Friday,” he said. “We are trying to do whatever we can, as our students, especially the third-year students, are at a crucial stage of their life as college examinations are ahead.”
Lee added all 388 freshmen underwent the first part of medical testing, including X-rays and skin tests, this month. He said it’s very unlikely that the freshmen are affected.
“All of the classes for freshmen are in a separate building from the sophomores and seniors who use the same building. And it’s very unlikely that a freshman would have contact with students in the upper grades.”
Health officials of the CDC examine the sophomores first in January, as the first patient was in this group.
“While we’ve been undergoing the medical testing a third-year student was found to be infected with TB in April,” Lee said.
However, he stressed the cause of the infection between each grade may not be related.
Lee was concerned about misconceptions about TB as much as he was worried about the health of his students.
“One-third of the world’s population carries an inactive form of the TB bacillus but live as healthy as those who don’t have it. I ask the media to stop portraying the 120 students as if they were serious ill patients. That’s what raises fear among them and their parents.”