Sauk County Health Department to test students in Baraboo, Sauk Prairie for TB “out of abundance of caution”

BARABOO, Wis. – Schools in Baraboo and Sauk Prairie are gearing up to test some students and staff for tuberculosis next week.

The Sauk County Health Department said these tests – which will be at no cost – are out of an abundance of caution.

Still, parents who heard the news Friday, including Heidi Hoekstra, said this was scary. She took her son to be tested at the doctor on Friday, paying out of pocket to ensure he and his other siblings are safe.

“They didn’t say how big of a risk it was, anything like that,” she said. “Just said, you know, your son has been exposed, and there’s other people as well. We’re not the only one.”

The director of Sauk County Health Department, Tim Lawther, said the nurses who conducted the investigation had to contact about 50 people to let them know they might have been exposed to someone with tuberculosis in the past 10 weeks – the incubation period for the illness – some at the schools in Baraboo and Sauk Prairie districts.

Lawther said they are only being cautious.

“The likelihood of any of these children or staff folks or anybody else catching the disease from this person is very, very low,” he said. “But out of an abundance of caution, we thought it was good that we tested, just to make sure.”

Lawther said the reason the risk is so low is because they aren’t sure the initial person is sick, one test came back positive, two came back negative. A confirmation test will take six to eight weeks. He said this person has also not shown any symptoms, which could be consistent with a type of TB that isn’t passed on, even if it does end up being present.

“There are experts out there who would suggest we don’t really need to be testing as extensively as we will,” Lawther said. “But we’ve decided in order to be safe and in order to alleviate concerns of parents, we will conduct this level of testing.”

He said parents who are concerned can watch for developing symptoms, including coughing, blood in your cough and night sweats or chills. Parents can contact their primary care physician if something seems abnormal. The department will retest students in eight to 10 weeks.

“Hopefully everybody gets the news they want to hear and this can all just go away,” Hoekstra said.