One Baltimore teacher has died from acquired immune deficiency syndrome and another is suffering in the final stages of the illness, school authorities said yesterday in what is the first public disclosure by a Maryland school district about teachers who have the disease.
The male victims, an elementary and a secondary teacher, had the disease for months before school officials were notified about the problem, said Walter Robbins, acting assistant superintendent for human resources and labor relations. One of the teachers died in June, about 45 days after the school district was notified. The other did not return to school this fall, prompting the school system to inquire, Robbins said.
"We have no idea how they got the disease," said Robbins, who refused to release the names of the teachers but described them both as between 35 and 40 years of age and veterans in the district.
"We have not talked to their physicians or looked at their records," he said. "We've heard time and time again that you can't get it from casual contact and that is how we are reacting to the problem."
AIDS is a virus believed to be spread almost exclusively by the exchange of bodily fluids. There is no known cure for the disease, which targets the white blood cells essential to the body's immune system. So far, 13,000 cases have been reported across the nation. In Maryland, state officials said yesterday that 213 cases have been reported with 115 resulting in death.
The disclosure that two teachers in Baltimore, a school district of 110,000 students and 6,700 teachers, had the deadly disease follows similar announcements by schools systems in New York and Miami last week. New York school officials announced that at least eight staff members had contracted the disease and three had died. Miami official acknowledged last week that 10 teachers in the past five years had died from the disease.
Baltimore authorities also said yesterday that two preschoolers, a 5-month-old and a 3-year-old, have been hospitalized with the disease.
Robbins said Baltimore school authorities learned about the teachers from the hospitals where they had been receiving care. No plans have been made to test their students or other teachers who were in contact with them, he said. "We haven't done anything like that," he said. "We don't have the facilities."
State officials said yesterday that they are aware of every person in Maryland who has been diagnosed as having AIDS but are not informing their employers. "What would be the purpose in telling the school district . . . . It is not a disease of casual contact," said Scott Stamford, AIDS program coordinator for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
"I'm sure there are teachers throughout the state who have it. Persons from all walks of life have been found to have it," Stamford said.
Howard Marshall, vice president of the school board, said yesterday that he would be directing a task force of representatives from Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Johns Hopkins School of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Baltimore City Health Department and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that is to develop a local policy towards AIDS victims. A statewide task force is expected to produce a report within the next couple of weeks.