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Shortage May Prevent School Employees, Volunteers From Getting TB Skin Tests

Some clinics can't perform the mandated medical test because they don't have any of the required solutions

Tuberculosis bacterium. Courtesy of CDC website.
Tuberculosis bacterium. Courtesy of CDC website.

A shortage of solutions needed to perform skin tests for tuberculosis may make it difficult for school employees and classroom volunteers to get the mandated exams done just as the school year is getting under way.

East Bay health officials said the Centers for Disease Control informed them recently that  a national shortage of Tubersol as well as limited availability of Aplisol may impact facilities that administer these skin tests.

New supplies of the solutions are expected are by mid-October.

Medical personnel can still perform blood tests to determine if a person is infected with tuberculosis.

However, Peggy Marshburn, a spokeswoman for the Contra Costa Office of Education, said the blood work might be too costly or inconvenient for school employees and volunteers.

In addition, not all clinics that administer skin tests can do the blood tests.

State law requires adults who work in classrooms to have periodic TB skin tests.

“This is definitely a problem,” said Marshburn.

Marshburn said her office was first alerted to the issue early this week when officials from the West Contra Costa Unified School District contacted them about the shortage.

Patch called three of the clinics recommended by the district for TB skin tests and all three said they weren’t able to administer the test because of the solution shortage.

Two Walnut Creek medical facilities contacted by Patch also said they didn’t have the necessary supplies.

Several East Bay school districts contacted by Patch weren’t aware of the problem but said they would look into it.

Marshburn said the shortage at this time of year is a particular problem for schools because as the fall semester starts new employees and new volunteers are being required to get the TB tests done.

She said her office has asked the California Department of Education to allow school districts to delay the deadline for employees and volunteers to get the tuberculosis tests.

State education officials did not return Patch’s calls on the topic.

Erika Jenssen, communicable disease programs chief for Contra Costa County, said her department alerted medical facilities and school districts when they were informed of the shortages.

She said her department advised medical facilities to prioritize the patients who receive the limited available amount of TB skin tests and perform blood tests on others.

They advised school districts to have employees and volunteers get the blood test or somehow get the requirement for the test deferred.

Erica Pan, director of communicable disease control and prevention for Alameda County, said her department likewise informed medical facilities and schools when they were told of the shortage.

They also advised facilities to prioritize skin tests and do blood tests when possible.

There was a national shortage of Tubersol in April. New supplies became available in June.

The shortages have apparently been caused by manufacturers not producing enough supplies.

Betty Buginas September 06, 2013 at 07:24 AM
What about Kaiser?
David Mills (Editor) September 06, 2013 at 12:06 PM
Hi, Betty... I didn't check with Kaiser but I would imagine a larger organization like them might have more access to the necessary solutions
Susan September 06, 2013 at 12:42 PM
yes, but everyone is not a Kaiser member. You can't go to Kaiser if you are not part of their coverage.
Diane September 06, 2013 at 11:56 PM
I am concerned about the health of the children put in harms way. .should any of the teachers, or substitute teachers, aides etc. actually be TB carriers What is the price tag if a new TB epidemic should begin in Contra Costa County because the school district could not perform the necessary TB testing?
Susan September 07, 2013 at 12:03 AM
The WCCUS District does not perform TB testing. The problem is not the fault of WCCUSD!
Susan September 07, 2013 at 12:04 AM
East Bay health officials said the Centers for Disease Control informed them recently that a national shortage of Tubersol as well as limited availability of Aplisol may impact facilities that administer these skin tests. The School District has no control over this.
Diane September 07, 2013 at 12:32 AM
I understand however I believe people not tested should not work in the district without proper T B Testing...And yes..the lack of Tubersol and Aplisol does cause this problem..the District suffers..Unfortunately. The Health Department and CDC must resolve their problem at the expense of WCCUD.

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