• Health authorities are identifying the patient's close contacts
  • They clarified that TB is not as contagious as the flu
  • Students, staff may continue learning in school, authorities say

A person at a middle school in Delaware County has tested positive for tuberculosis, following which health authorities shared important reminders for concerned parents.

The illness was diagnosed in someone who "attends" the Penn Woods Middle School in the William Penn School District, according to the announcement from the Delaware County Health Department (DCHD).

While authorities are already working to identify anyone who may have been exposed to the illness, they also clarified that it is not quite as contagious as the flu.

"It is important for parents who are concerned they or their children may have been in close contact know that not all exposures become sick," noted the DCHD. "You would have to spend prolonged periods (around at least 15 hours of contact per week) in close contact with an infected person to catch the infection yourself."

Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is caused by germs (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that can spread through the air, noted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It cannot spread by " touching, kissing, or sharing food or dishes," added the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For now, the Health Department will be contacting those identified as close contacts of the individual so they can be tested. It clarified that students and staff may keep learning in the school setting.

Those with questions, such as concerns if they should get tested, may contact the DCHD Wellness line at (484) 276 – 2100.


There are two types of TB — latent and active, with latent being where the infection-causing germs live in the body but do not cause illness. Active TB or TB disease, on the other hand, is when someone gets sick from it. It can "almost always" be cured using antibiotics, but it can also be fatal if left untreated.

Although TB is more common in some other countries, it is also found in the U.S.

In 2021, there were 7,882 cases of TB in the U.S., according to data from the CDC. Some 13 million are also estimated to be living with latent TB infection.

People with latent TB don't present with symptoms of the disease, and neither can they spread the germs. However, they can develop active TB in the future if their immune system weakens for some other reason. This is why they need to take medications for several months to avoid developing active TB.

The rate of TB in the U.S. has been "steadily" decreasing in years, according to the CDC, though it saw a small rebound in 2021 after the greater decline in 2020 likely due to pandemic-related factors.

In 2022, the World Health Organization also expressed its concerns about the rebound in TB cases after years of decline. According to the agency, it could be "once again be the leading cause of death worldwide from a single infectious agent, replacing Covid-19."

Representational image (School classroom)
Representational image (Source: Pixabay / DeltaWorks)