Ottawa Public Health warns of TB risk at Ridgemont HS

Ottawa Public Health says students and staff at Ridgemont High School, on Alta Vista Dr., have been warned about the risk of tuberculosis infection, after approximately 150 people may have come into contact with someone with an active case of the disease.

OPH says the roughly 150 students and staff may have been exposed at some time between September 4, 2018 and November 12, 2018. The families of these people have been given a letter recommending they get tested for TB.

Sharlene Hunter, a spokesperson for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, says the single active case involved a student, who is not at school at this time. Hunter says the OCDSB is following the lead of OPH on this issue and adds OPH has indicated the only known risk is at Ridgemont.

Ottawa Public Health says, as of December 4, it is not aware of any other person with infectious TB either attending or working at Ridgemont. OPH does not believe there is a risk of any ongoing spread of infection of TB.

OPH will be holding a general info session at Ridgemont HS at 7:00 p.m. Tues. Dec. 4 to answer parents’ and guardians’ questions. Hunter says nursing staff will also be in attendance.

During the week of Dec. 10, OPH will conduct screening clinics for the students and staff who may have been exposed to the TB case. Hunter says another screening clinic will be held in January.

TB is spread through the air when a person with an active infection coughs; others, who are in direct contact for an extended period of time, run the risk of inhaling the bacteria. In other words, incidental contact–like on the bus, or outdoors in between classes–presents a very low risk of transmission.

In a statement, OPH says, “The purpose of the testing is to identify individuals with latent TB infection (LTBI) in an effort to prevent future cases of TB disease. When a person has latent TB infection, TB bacteria have entered the body but are dormant (sleeping) and not growing. A person with latent TB infection does not feel sick and is not contagious – they cannot pass TB bacteria to another person. However, without treatment, a small percentage of people with latent TB infection may develop active TB disease later in their life.”

There is no vaccine for TB.

You can find more information about TB by visiting Ottawa Public Health’s website.

With files from CTV's Joanne Schnurr.