Hundreds Taking TB Skin Test

As we told you told exclusively Tuesday night on Newswatch, local health officials have confirmed an active case of the disease involving someone associated with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra.

Privacy laws prevent health officials from saying who tested positive for TB and how that person may have exposed others to the airborne disease.

To some, the unanswered questions are raising the anxiety level that's high enough already.

As we reported last night, the Evansville Philharmonic gave the Health Department the names and addresses of all the musicians, singers and support staff because the active case of TB is said to be someone associated with the orchestra.

But that only accounts for a few hundred people on the list of those potentially exposed. Where all the others came from is still a mystery and will likely remain one.

An Evansville woman, who doesn't want to reveal her identity because she doesn't want anyone to know she may have been exposed to tuberculosis, says she thought the letter she got could have been a practical joke.

She says there is no indication that it's official from the Vanderburgh County Health Department.

Then, she kept reading, and thought maybe it was.

A call to the Health Department confirmed the letter was no joke.

She says someone there told her she was one of 1500 people who received one.

She had a TB skin test, and because of her chronic medical problems, she went to her own doctor for a chest x-ray.

Both came back negative, but they've done little to put her mind at ease.

The woman says she just wants to know where she was exposed to know who in my immediate family needs to be tested also, either out of her pocket or the county's pocket.

Indiana code says "...a person may not disclose or be compelled to disclose medical or epidemiological information involving a communicable disease... that is a danger to health."

Denise Cory of the Vanderburgh County Health Department says locations of potential exposures are considered epidemiological information in this case, so they can't be disclosed.

She says the TB clinic is only interested in testing people who received letters, not their immediate families.

Cory sayd they have identified who they need to contact, and they are in the process of contacting. She says this investigation could go on a couple more weeks.

It takes 48 to 72 hours for a skin test to be evaluated, and Cory says some of the people will be asked to come back for a second test in a few weeks to rule out any false negatives.

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

Previously: The Evansville Philharmonic receives a surprising review from the health department: Someone associated with the orchestra tested positive for tuberculosis.

The health department is alerting anyone who may have been in contact with this infected individual - and the list could be very long.

The health department started its investigation in late July, but that doesn't mean that's when the individual was infected with TB. The disease can have a long incubation period before the patient showed symptoms, and he or she may have gone back to the doctor several times before the right diagnosis was made.

Whatever the situation, this person must have come in contact with quite a few people before authorities were notified, because a large-scale health investigation is currently underway.

Executive director Glenn Roberts was caught off-guard when he got a letter from the Vanderburgh County Health Department August 1st. "They said an individual, either in our orchestra or our chorus, had an active case of TB, and they wanted to notify everyone who was involved with our productions between the periods of December and May."

That meant he would have to provide health investigators with the names and addresses of all the musicians, singers and support staff who work on the shows at the Victory Theatre, including guest performers.

In April alone, 20 people from all over the country were here for the production "Pirates of Penzance."

One Evansville woman, who didn't want to talk on camera, told us that she's never even been to the symphony and can't imagine where she may have been exposed. She's upset that the health department won't tell her.

Denise Cory of the Vanderburgh County Health Department says, "We have to keep the identity of the case confidential, and anything related to that confidential. Locations are for us to determine and what we can assure people is, that our job is to protect their health, and that's what we're doing."

They're continuing to identify and notify people who may have come in contact with the infected individual, asking them to come to the health department for a free TB test.

Cory explains, "If they have a positive skin test and they don't have an immuno-comprosing condition: they don't have cancer, they don't have HIV, they don't have AIDS, their risk of developing active disease is one-in-ten."

A case of active TB can be cured with medication provided by the health department at no cost.

And you can be a TB carrier without having the active TB disease - there is a difference. Those who carry the bacteria can also take medicine to ward off the actual disease.

TB can attack any part of the body, but usually gets into the lungs. But don't worry too much - it's not easy to get. Usually a person has to be in close contact with the infected individual, for a long period of time.