Probe of tuberculosis shows all clear

FAIRMONT — Two months after it came to light that Community Health Services of Faribault and Martin Counties was monitoring and following up on an active case of tuberculosis, it seems that all is well.

Chera Sevcik, Community Health manager, said the investigation has yielded negative results for any additional cases of TB.

“What happens with a TB investigation is when somebody has an active diagnosis, we are alerted by the Minnesota Department of Health because it is a reportable condition,” she said. “So they get notified by the provider and then they turn around and notify us at the local level. We immediately set up a time to meet with that individual, whether they’re still in the hospital in isolation or sometimes they’ve been discharged home if they’re no longer infectious. So we start to work with them on identifying who may have been in close contact with them over their infectious period of time.

“So we look at everybody in their family and social circles, and then we also look at their employment circle. So there’s a lot of different factors that go into play in terms of if somebody is going to be identified as a potential risk factor for having or transmitting TB. Transmission of TB happens more in confined spaces, so we’re really more worried if people are working right next to each other in a cubicle situation than if they’re spending time outside in open spaces.”

The other issue facing these investigators is time. Sevcik said that while the recent probe was thorough, it was relatively brief when compared to other investigations.

“It can take a while to identify everybody in those circles, and then we do some testing,” she said. “So we’ve been doing that with this case, and everybody that we have tested has come back negative, which is very good to see.

“Potentially if somebody with TB and they got somebody else sick, then we’d have to start a separate investigation into that person, and it can balloon out very quickly into a huge investigation that can take a lot of time and resources.

“In addition to the TB investigation, Public Health is also responsible for doing what we call daily observation therapy. So we are meeting with the individual who had an active case of TB and we are providing medications every day. We watch them take their meds and make sure they’re not having any side effects or issues, because these meds can be really harsh on the liver and other body systems.

“It can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months and they can have up to 10 different medications at one time that they may need to be taking. So we check with them every day to make sure things are going well. So our role can be pretty heavy in terms of intensity, but we are glad to see that we only had the one case and nothing has come up since then.”

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