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      Tuberculosis test shortage causes concerns

      A nationwide shortage of tests for tuberculosis is impacting local health departments.

      Thatâ??s forcing Boone County health officials to use a temporary change in testing procedures.

      Most people working at hospitals, daycare centers, nursing homes and the Department of Corrections need to be tested for tuberculosis to help prevent the spread of the respiratory disease. Boone County health officials are using blood tests instead of skin tests during the nationwide shortage of TB testing materials. Paul Prevo owns and operates Columbiaâ??s Tiger Tots Child Development Center. Prevo sees a lot of employee turnover with college students who need tuberculosis testing. Prevo said new rules allow some of his employees to skip TB testing if they pass a risk assessment form.

      Prevo said, â??It asks questions such as, have you been out of the country during the past 5 years? Have you ever had a negative chest X-ray? If you donâ??t fall within the criteria of requiring a TB test, thatâ??s cut down on a number of TB tests that are required each year.â??

      While thereâ??s a shortage of skin testing, Boone County health officials are using a blood test called T-Spot to check for TB. The blood testing costs $70. Thatâ??s $50 more than the cost of skin testing. A deferral letter is available to postpone testing for job requirements.

      Community Health Manager Mary Martin said, â??The deferral letter says currently we canâ??t test this person. We advise them to fill out a check list that asks them about symptoms.â??

      Health officials said manufacturing problems at factories are usually the cause of the shortage of TB testing materials. Health experts say the nationwide shortage is expected to last through the end of October.

      Another short term nationwide shortage of TB testing materials happened earlier this summer without any major problems.