South Carolina legislators raised the possibility of amending state laws to require periodic TB testing for school employees, after a spring TB outbreak in Greenwood County’s Ninety-Six Primary School. The TB outbreak stemmed from exposure to the school’s janitor, who was diagnosed with advanced TB and removed from the school in early March.
South Carolina state law requires those applying for employment at schools and daycare centers to provide test results that prove they do not have TB. However, state law does not require follow-up testing. The janitor who spread TB in Ninety-Six Primary had worked in the district since 2005.
The health department tested 12 Ninety-Six Primary School employees for TB in mid-April, but did not test students and other faculty or notify the community about the outbreak until late May. In addition to the janitor, TB testing identified 11 active TB cases: 10 children who were not contagious and one adult. In all, more than 100 people tested positive for TB germs; more than 50 of these were children. In response to questions from South Carolina legislators, Director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) Catherine Templeton supported the concept of periodic testing of staff. However, lack of funding could be a barrier to the implementation of repeated TB testing.
DHEC absorbed the $1,800 cost of TB testing for students and staff from Ninety-Six Primary and was paying for treatment of the 12 active TB cases. Superintendent Mark Petersen stated that the school district expected to spend an additional $1,200 for screening people from other schools in the district who also asked for TB testing.