More relatives of TB patient tested for disease

LAWRENCEVILLE - Five people who may have been infected by a relative with tuberculosis tested negative for the disease, health department officials said Friday.

The Gwinnett County Board of Health began an investigation Aug. 24 to determine who 17-year-old Francisco Santos of 1712 The Falls Parkway in Duluth may have infected.

A superior court judge ordered Santos, a day laborer from Mexico, to be placed in an isolated cell in the Gwinnett County Jail's infirmary Aug. 24 following reports the 17-year-old had the pulmonary disease and was refusing treatment.

The five people whose test results were available Friday did not live with Santos but were relatives believed to have been in contact with the infected teen.

Vernon Goins, Gwinnett County Health Department spokesman, said eight other family members living in the Duluth residence with Santos were tested earlier this week. Test results back Wednesday confirmed four of those eight tested positive for the disease.

"Those four tested positive but are not actively ill," Goins said Wednesday. "Chest X-rays were negative, and we will treat them to keep the disease from developing."

Goins said the four are not contagious and will follow the typical TB treatment for nine months.

A total of 13 of Santos' relatives had to be tested as a result of his infection. Goins said four of those family members were children, none of which tested positive for TB but will be treated for the disease as a precaution.

Goins said neither the children nor the adults, including those who tested positive for TB, are contagious. He said two more relatives who were in contact with Santos will be tested next week.

A Sept. 5 court date has been set to determine whether Santos can be released from confinement, Goins said.

"The next move will be the hearing next Wednesday," Goins said. "Our primary job right now is to make sure the young man is not contagious. He seems to be responding normally to the medications."

Goins said three more tests in which the teen tests negative for TB are required before the board will recommend Santos be taken out of isolation.

Santos will be let go when he no longer is contagious, Goins said. "Then the court can do with him what they will."

While it has not been said where the teen may have contracted the disease, Goins said his office is not concerned with Santos' status in the United States or whether he could have brought the TB from his native country.

"We don't know his status. Public health is concerned about stopping the disease. We don't get hung up on demographics," Goins said.

While more than 500 cases of TB are reported in Georgia each year, Goins said this is the first case of court-ordered TB isolation in Gwinnett County since the mid-'90s.

Goins said the Health Department recommends every Gwinnett resident have a yearly TB test. Testing is available at all county health departments. For more information or a list of locations, visit www.gwinnetthealth.com or call 770-339-4260.