Student Health Services confirms Tuberculosis case
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 01:09
The season of sickness, sneezing and coughing may have taken a severe turn at Miami University.
Greg Calkins, medical director at Student Health Services (SHS) has confirmed there is a student who is suspected to have tuberculosis (TB).
“There is a student that we suspect might have tuberculosis,” Calkins said. “We don’t have a definite diagnosis but we are treating him as if he has it pending confirmation.”
Calkins said the situation is under control and students in classes with the student should not be concerned.
“Those students are not deemed to be in concerning contact,” Calkins said.
Calkins also said that only those who are in prolonged contact with the student should be concerned.
“The only ones that should be concerned are those that the [Butler County] Health Department deems ‘close contacts,’ such as roommates and friends that spend a lot of time with the student, something like four hours a day on a day-to-day basis,” Calkins said. “The reason for that is that TB really is not terribly contagious and it takes prolonged contact to transmit.”
Calkins said Student Health Services is working with the Butler County Health Department to identify those close contacts and notify them.
“We don’t do a public notification for a couple reasons,” Calkins said. “That would involve a lot of people that wouldn’t need to be alarmed and it might jeopardize privacy unnecessarily.”
He said SHS is in the process of alerting close contacts of the student.
First-year Lauren Curtis said she is not concerned yet about the possible presence of the disease on campus.
“I’m not concerned since it’s not a problem yet,” Curtis said. “It’s not worth it to scare people at this point.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, tuberculosis is a contagious, airborne disease, which usually affects the lungs and can be fatal.
Professor of microbiology Joseph Carlin said tuberculosis manifests differently in every individual.
“The symptoms really depend upon the individual,” Carlin said. “There are some people that are infected that really have no outward disease and their immune system contains it, but they’re still infected and they can stay that way for decades and can reactivate and spread the disease.”
However, Carlin said tuberculosis looks different in other individuals.
“Others have a rapidly progressing disease, and the health of their immune system can contribute to this,” Carlin said. “They have an immune system defect and in that case, tuberculosis causes coughing, and it can spread through coughing.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms can also include blood-tinged saliva.
Carlin said that an immune system which is functioning normally in an infected person builds a tubercle that, although it can damage the tissues, can also contain the disease. He said if the bacteria is not contained, it will destroy cells and cause damage.
The disease is contagious but completely curable, according to Carlin.
“It’s a very slow-developing infection,” Carlin said. “It’s entirely curable with antibiotics. But because it grows so slowly, it dies very slowly, so people who have it have to go on antibiotics, usually a combination, for months.”
Carlin said those who spend a lot of time with the infected person are the most at risk of contracting the disease.
In the United States in 2010, the case rate for tuberculosis per 100,000 people was 3.6 percent, which represented a downward trend in the case rate over the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
First-year Will Dudley said he wished Miami would publicly notify students.
“I’d rather them actually tell people so in case the person came into contact with anyone, that student would know if they should see the doctor or not,” Dudley said.