Fighting the unknown
In the waning summer days of 2014, elementary school teacher Laura Hall felt drained by a cough that wouldn’t go away. It was related to acid reflux, she was told, and should be treated with antibiotics. But despite taking the prescribed medications, her symptoms worsened.
Eventually, Laura's mystery ailment would lead to three months of quarantine and to a contact investigation of more than 500 individuals. QuantiFERON-TB Gold Plus, a state-of-the-art blood test, could have detected the teacher’s infection before she became sick and put others around her at risk.
Laura Hall lives in the small town of Shelburne, Vermont, close to the Canadian border. When she suspected she was coming down with the flu, she sought medical advice, but was given the same diagnosis from the various doctors she consulted. “I had the chills at night, my energy level was going down, and I kept losing weight,” recalls Hall. “I became more and more worried, because nobody could really help me.” During the Christmas holidays, she went to the emergency room where the attending physician finally solved the mystery.
Hall was diagnosed with active tuberculosis, or TB, a contagious disease that had eluded all her previous medical caregivers. “It was absolutely shocking,” says the Spanish teacher. “I kept asking, ‘Are you sure?’ I just couldn’t believe it, because I had not been near anybody with TB.”
Laura Hall, Charlotte Central School
Dr. Michael Lauzardo, University of Florida