Georgia Perimeter students, staff tested for tuberculosis

COVINGTON -- Some students and staff at Georgia Perimeter College's Newton campus are being tested for tuberculosis after a staff member tested positive for the disease.

Recently, GPC notified students that the Newton County Health Department informed the college of a case of tuberculosis in a staff member at the campus.

"As a precaution, the health department has determined that there are individuals at our school who need to be tested," said Keith Cobb, dean of students at the Newton Campus, in a letter last week. "These individuals who were in close and continuous contact with the ill individual will be tested free of charge by the health department."

Beverly James, assistant director of Media Relations at GPC, said Tuesday that because of federal law, the college can't reveal the faculty member's name or any other identifying information, but school officials did inform all of this person's students.

The health department tested students on campus Tuesday and will test them again on Monday; they also are providing information and education about tuberculosis.

"The health and welfare of our students and staff is important to our school community," Cobb said in the letter. "Georgia Perimeter College will work with the health department, monitoring this situation closely and providing more information as it is available."

He noted that the health department informed the school that tuberculosis is a disease that is hard to spread to others.

"Close and continuous contact over hours is necessary to transmit the disease to another person," he said.

Additionally, even if the person is infected with the germ, they cannot give it to another person without being ill with the disease themselves.

"This does not happen right away and may take years," he said. "In general, one out of 10 people who come in contact with TB ever develop the disease."

Symptoms include a productive cough lasting more than three weeks, fever, chills, night sweats, getting tired easily, loss of appetite, weight loss and coughing up blood.

According to the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments, Newton County ranks sixth in the state of Georgia, with five cases per 100,000 residents having active tuberculosis. The state of Georgia has 4.2 cases per 100,000 residents and the United States has 3.6 cases per 100,000 residents.