Former inmate tests positive for TB

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

Curry County and New Mexico Department of Health officials are scrambling to trace a Curry County Detention Center inmate’s steps through the facility after he tested positive for tuberculosis July 1.

Curry County Manager Lance Pyle said a male former inmate tested positive for infectious tuberculosis after transfer to another jail.

The facility notified the detention center and the NMDEP.

Chris Minnick, regional public information officer with NMDEP, said the department immediately launched an investigation.

Minnick and Pyle said the investigation center’s on discovering who was in contact with the inmate while the he was contagious and testing them.

Tuberculosis is contagious as long as the individual is not receiving treatment for the disease, Minnick said.

Pyle said the inmate was held in a pod and could have been in contact with about 100 people.

Pyle said the jail wasn’t aware of the inmates condition because he didn’t show any symptoms.

Pyle also said the condition wasn’t discovered when the inmate was booked in Curry County because the jail does not test each of its 250 inmates when they are brought in.

Minnick said anyone who was in contact with the inmate will be contacted and tested. A positive test means the person was exposed, not that they have the infectious form of the disease.

Treatment for tuberculosis, depending on the stage when it is diagnosed, can last from six to nine months and includes two to four antibiotics, Minnick said.

Gayla Jaquess, nurse manager for the Curry County Health office, said the investigation will be conducted by NMDEP nurses and detention center staff.

“When we do an investigation, we’re given a time of when they’re tested positive and we go back three months,” Jaquess said.

Jaquess said each person who came in contact with the inmate will be asked questions and given a scratch test. If the scratch test comes back positive, the person would be referred for a chest X-ray.

“And then any medications would be decided after that,” she said.

By the numbers:

• In New Mexico, there were 39 cases of tuberculosis in 2005, 48 cases in 2006, 51 cases in 2007 and 60 cases in 2008.