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Student diagnosed with Tuberculosis

By Sarah Fauser


Published: Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In a Feb. 24 campus wide e-mail, Chancellor Brady announced that a UNCG student had been diagnosed with signs and symptoms of active tuberculosis (TB). Symptoms of TB include unexplained tiredness and fever, weight loss and a recurring cough, usually lasting more than three weeks. After experiencing a chronic cough and showing an abnormal x-ray, the student was transported to a local hospital where more evidence of TB was detected. As required by state communicable disease law, clinicians at Student Health Services contacted the Guilford County Department of Public Health to alert them immediately of the situation.

Tuberculosis is an airborne illness that is spread when someone breaths in the bacteria through their lungs, so those who share a close and prolonged breathing space with someone infected by active TB are more at risk to contract the disease. Because of that fact, every individual who had come in to contact with the UNCG student was notified and alerted that they would need to be tested for it.

“This is a very defined population that’s been exposed,” said Ward Robinson, Medical Director for Guilford County’s Department of Public Health. This included fellow classmates, professors, those living in the same dormitory, friends and family; a number reaching close to 600 people. In a press briefing last Wednesday, health officials stated they are confident that they reached every person who had prolonged contact with the student and that there is no longer a need for worry or concern.

“The one thing we want to make clear to the students and faculty of UNCG is that if they had no prolonged contact with the individual then they should not be worried about contracting TB,” said Chancellor Brady. “Because Guilford County Department of Public Health is required to intervene, we were able to set up clear and concise procedures to ensure accuracy of who would need to be contacted about getting tested,” said Chancellor Brady. Those who were identified as at risk received a free tuberculosis skin test, and those who may test positive will receive free antibiotics. A clinic was set up in the Student Health Services building from 8 am to 8 pm last Friday for those needing to be tested.

Tresa Saxton, Director of the UNCG Student Health Services, said that in the 15 years she has been working for UNCG, this is the first documented case of active TB she has encountered. “Sure, we’ve had a couple people come in with a TB infection (something that is neither contagious or fatal) over the years but no one with the active bacteria in them. We are glad that health officials caught it when they did because if left untreated tuberculosis could become a deadly disease.”

According to the American Lung Association, the disease was once the number one killer in the United States, but within the last 16 years cases of tuberculosis have declined. However, the student is from a part of the world where tuberculosis infection rates are not at historic lows. The name of the residence hall where the student lives, along with other identifying information, will not be released to protect the student’s privacy. Hospitals would only comment that the student is responding well to the antibiotics and may return to school when no longer contagious.

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