A doctor has diagnosed two students at an elementary school in Southern California with leprosy.
The unidentified students attend Indian Hills Elementary School in Jurupa Valley, California, a suburban outpost in the Inland Empire.
Jurupa Unified School officials sent a letter home to parents on Friday concerning the situation, reports CBS Los Angeles.
Parents were alarmed.
“First thing I did was I called the school right the way and asked about decontamination, any kind of process, what’s going to be happening,” petrified parent Vanessa Aniles told the station.
Aniles also noted that she has searched the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about leprosy, “a long-lasting infection caused by bacteria” which can cause discolored skin lesions, complete loss or nerve sensation, paralysis and eye problems which can lead to blindness.
Coughing and sneezing can spread the bacteria.
School district superintendent Elliott Duchon refused to reveal whether the students are related.
“The risk of transmission, meaning spreading from those two individuals to other students or staff is very, very low,” Barbara Cole, director of disease control for surrounding Riverside County, told CBS Los Angeles.
Cole added that government officials had not confirmed that the students have leprosy — as of early this week.
Specimens provided by the two students have now been sent to the National Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Clinical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, according to The Press-Enterprise, a local newspaper.
The national leprosy clinic will take several weeks to process the specimens.
It’s not clear why — in 2016 — specimens to be tested for leprosy take several weeks to process.
Almost 100 students at Indian Hills Elementary School stayed home on Tuesday. The school enrolls just over 600 students.
School district officials have engaged a company to decontaminate classroom spaces in which the two children diagnosed with leprosy came into contact.
“We’re not sure that really was necessary,” Duchon told The Press-Enterprise.
“Today, with early diagnosis and prompt treatment with appropriate antibiotics, most people do very well,” Cole totally assured the newspaper.
Parents and caretakers expressed skepticism.
“How long have they been playing with the other kids?” grandmother Juanita Vasquez rhetorically asked a Press-Enterprise reporter. “I just hope whatever it is, they caught it in time.”
“They probably have touched a lot of stuff,” worried mother Mindy Sing observed.
Riverside County had its last case of leprosy in 2011. All told, the county has seen seven cases of the bacterial disease.
Data from the World Health Organization suggests that approximately 180,000 people around the world have leprosy. Most of them live in under-developed parts of Asia and Africa.
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