LaRue County Detention Center inmates and employees were tested for tuberculosis last week – and results were negative.
“We have no confirmed (active) cases here,” said Jailer Johnny Cottrill. “I’m thankful for that.”
Wendy Keown, a registered nurse, tuberculosis coordinator and public information officer for Lincoln Trail Health Department, went a step further.
“We don’t have any reports or confirmed cases of TB in LaRue County, period,” she said.
According to Cottrill, another county had a confirmed case of tuberculosis in a family member of a former LaRue County inmate.
The inmate has not been at the jail for “three or four months,” Cottrill said. But anyone who had been in contact with the inmate was requested to have a skin test.
Keown said annual skin testing for TB is done in jails anyway.
Tuberculosis has been documented for thousands of years. The disease, caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, was known as “consumption” in the 1800s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the past, it was not uncommon for people to die from TB; in the early 1900s, the disease killed one of every seven people in the United States who contracted it.
The bacteria is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or speaks. People nearby may breathe in the bacteria and become infected.
It’s unusual to hear of an active case these days, however, due to improved medicines and available information about TB.
Keown said a positive skin test does not mean that a person has the active form of the disease. More than likely, a raised red bump at the site of the test indicates only that the person has been in contact with someone with active TB.
“It’s very common to find a positive skin test,” she said. People with latent TB infection are not contagious and have no symptoms.
Most people with latent TB infection never develop active TB. Some are advised to take medicine (isoniazid or INH) for several months to keep from developing it.
People with compromised immune systems eventually may contract the active form of the disease. Symptoms include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum, weakness, fever and night sweats.
LaRue County hasn’t had a reported active TB test since 2002. That year, one case was confirmed, according to Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
“TB is not as easy to get as people think,” Keown said. “In people with active TB, only about 30 percent of those living with them have a positive skin test.”
For more information about TB, contact the health department at 769-1601.