Health officials ask parents to test kids

San Mateo County Health Department officials next week will be meeting individually with some John F. Kennedy Middle School parents, now that a round of testing for any blood-borne disease is complete.

Kennedy Principal Warren Sedar contacted every student’s family individually to let them know about the meetings, most of which are scheduled to take place on Monday, according to Redwood City Elementary School District Superintendent Jan Christensen.

More than 30 Kennedy Middle students were baseline tested Nov. 21 to confirm none of them had caught diseases such as hepatitis B and C and HIV after a substitute teacher failed to follow proper protocol in an experiment conducted the week prior. Even if the baseline tests come back negative, the health department recommends the students undergo testing again in six months.

The substitute teacher oversaw six science classes that week in which he pricked students’ fingers with a lancet, a medical device similar to a needle, and directed them to examine the small amount of blood drawn under a microscope. The teacher has since been fired from the district.

Over the course of a day, an unknown number of lancets were used on approximately 30 students. Though it remains unclear how many lancets were used, the teacher had reportedly reused them on different students.

The county Health Department will not be releasing further information until after the individual meetings with parents, health services spokeswoman Beverly Thames said.

Parent Debbie Hetes, whose son Eric said he was the first student in his class period to participate in the experiment, said she was still concerned that the needle used on Eric might have been used in previous class periods. Though some parents elected to have their children tested at private pediatricians, Hetes said she was going to wait and see what Eric’s results were before going that route.

Hepatitis B was the health department’s main concern, but the chances of contracting it are very low given the students’ age group and their required vaccination against the disease, according to Dr. Alvaro Garza, health officer with the county Health Department. There is no vaccination against hepatitis C or HIV, but those are even harder to contract in this manner than hepatitis B, Garza said.

tramroop@examiner.com

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