Health officials continue TB testing in eastern Iowa

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Associated Press

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Tuberculosis testing continued Wednesday in eastern Iowa as relatives of one woman say she died of the disease.

Linn County health officials tested 84 people last week and are now testing up to 150 children age 15 and younger, said Vicky Smith, a nursing supervisor with the county health department.

Four active cases have been reported since testing began two weeks ago, though the results of the latest tests were not immediately available, Smith said.


The Gazette reported Wednesday that Valerie Schmidt, 48, of Robins, died Aug. 20 from tuberculosis, an infectious disease that usually infects the lungs and causes fever, cough and weight loss.

The newspaper said Schmidt's death certificate filed in the Linn County recorder's office lists her cause of death as pulmonary tuberculosis.

Family members said Schmidt was an employee at Rockwell Collins, and that other family members and other employees have tested positive for TB, The Gazette reported.

Neither Smith nor Nicole Peckumn, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Public Health, would confirm the report.

Peckumn said state privacy laws prohibits the release of information that can be used to identify a person. She also could not immediately provide information of the last time someone in Iowa died from tuberculosis.

Attempts to contact members of Schmidt's family by telephone Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, state epidemiologist, said TB develops slowly before symptoms appear and that it takes prolonged, close contact to spread to another person.

Family members and co-workers are most often tested, she said.


For those people who are exposed to TB, there is a 10 percent risk of becoming ill over their lifetime. The use of antibiotics lowers that risk to less than 1 percent, she said.

Iowa sees as many as 50 active TB cases a year, resulting in thousands of people being tested, Quinlisk said.

Most adults who get pulmonary TB suffer a cough, weight loss, night sweats, a slight fever and generally don't feel well, she said.

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