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School, health district officials stress safety after tuberculosis-related death

After the tuberculosis-related death this past month of a teacher at Fremont Middle School, school and health district officials are attempting to assure concerned parents that the campus will be safe when the new year begins Monday. (KSNV)

After the tuberculosis-related death this past month of a teacher at Fremont Middle School, school and health district officials are attempting to assure concerned parents that the campus will be safe when the new year begins Monday.

In a welcome back letter to families, the Fremont principal said Maria Alvarez, who taught English and reading, passed away in July after a brief illness.

A Parentlink message was sent out to Fremont families July 11, but several parents that spoke to News 3 said they were unaware what had happened.

On Tuesday, parents arrive to register their children on the campus located at 1100 E. St. Louis Ave., and teachers are setting up classrooms.

Dr. Joe Iser, the Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, says that about 80 people who may have crossed paths with the infected patient, have been tested. All of those results were negative.

“About 90 percent of the people who get the bacteria never come down with the disease of TB,” Iser said. “We hear about tuberculosis 70 or 80 times a year, so this is not new.”

RELATED | Many tested after Fremont Middle School staffer dies of tuberculosis

What is rare, Iser said, is the patient dying. In the past four years, there have been only four deaths related to TB — the other three were a mother and her newborn twins who died at Summerlin Hospital in 2013.

“If found at the right time, it is very treatable and — more importantly — it is preventable,” Iser said.

Tuberculosis is bacteria that tends to settle in the lungs. Symptoms include a nagging cough, fever and night sweats and is routinely treated with anti-biotics.

With children now heading back to class, Iser says a TB vaccine is not included in those required immunizations.

“It's only about 50 percent effective,” and we have so few cases in this nation that it would not be cost effective to do it,” Iser said.

Still, parents are worried.

“There should be some kind of delay, I guess, in starting because they need to be screened first,” said parent John-Dexter Tcson. “That takes some time for results to come back negative or whatever.”

School will start on time Monday.

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