No other inmates have active TB

Published 11:14 pm Saturday, October 6, 2007

The number of Pearl River County Jail inmates and corrections personnel who have tested positive for for inactive tuberculosis now stands at 33. The new, lower number of those testing positive for the potentially deadly disease was released Friday by the Mississippi Health Department.

Previously, the Health Department said 74 inmates and jail personnel had tested positive in skin tests. However, Interim State Epidemiologist Dr. Mary Currier said Friday during a conference call that the correct number is 28 inmates and five jail staff members tested positive in the skin tests. After conducting chest x-rays, none of the inmates were found to have active tuberculosis, however preventive treatment began on the inactive cases to keep them from becoming active, she said. Test results for the five employees was unavailable.

“So far none of the inmates were found to have active tuberculosis,” Currier said.

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Since the disease is slow to develop, subsequent tests will take place 10 weeks after the first tests to ensure those who tested negative remain negative.

Pearl River County Sheriff Department Chief Deputy Julie Flowers said the two figures for the number of positive tests differed because the initial number included inmates who had been treated for tuberculosis prior to their arrival at the Pearl River County Jail. Even after treatment those inmates will always test positive even though they no longer have tuberculosis. The average jail population was between 390 and 400 inmates during the period of exposure, June 6 to Sept. 13, Flowers said. All inmates were tested by the jail medical staff. Currier said the Health Department tested about 260 inmates.

Sheriff’s Department Maj. Aaron Russell said the inmate who had active tuberculosis was from Pascagoula and had been arrested by the FBI. All federal inmates are tested for tuberculosis when they come to the Pearl River County Jail, however, that inmate’s preexisting health condition provided a false negative. Currier said plans are in the works to implement new tests, such as blood tests, that can overcome that testing boundary.

Currier said people who may have visited the jail during the period of June 6 to Sept. 13, probably are not at risk of having contracted the disease since prolonged contact is typically needed for infection. Those who are at risk will be contacted by Health Department personnel, Currier said.

“As it looks right now, we are looking for everyone who was there from June 6 to Sept. 13,” Currier said.

Steps will be taken to contact any family members or other people who have come into close contact with those who tested positive, Currier said.

Tuberculosis is a deadly disease that can be contracted through the air from an infected person’s lungs and throat when they cough or sneeze, according to Treatment takes nine months and consists of antibiotics, Currier said.

Symptoms of active tuberculosis include coughing up blood, fatigue, chest pain, loss of appetite and fever to name a few, according to

Currier said the time from infection until the disease becomes active can vary depending on the individual who is exposed. Sometimes it can take years before the disease becomes active.

The incident is still under investigation, Currier said.

More information can be obtained at the Health Department by calling 1-866-458-4948.