Student Health works hard to educate students on a variety of topics including prevention, treatment of common illness and injury, and public health initiatives.
March is TB Awareness Month, thus, this is your opportunity to learn more about Tuberculosis! Below is a message from Dr. Tom Howard, Associate Medical Director at Student Health.
Tuberculosis is an uncommon infection in the US, but more so internationally. It is spread through respiratory droplets (coughing) and requires a good amount of exposure to an individual with coughing. Passing contact in hallways, classrooms and dining facilities is not a risk of contracting this infection. In most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing. The bacteria becomes inactive, but they remain alive in the body and can become active in the individual at a later time. This is called a latent TB infection. When the bacterium grows in the lungs evidence of infection can be detected by chest xray. These individuals with active disease may or may not be infectious, based on the presence of a cough or evidence of the bacteria on sputum evaluation.
Screening for Tuberculosis involves questioning for exposure-travel to high-risk countries, exposure to infected individuals and symptoms (cough, fever, weight loss). Screening is performed with a skin test or a blood test. Both screening tests are quite effective in identifying affected individuals and hence the low incidence of this disease in the United States. Individuals with an abnormal screening test undergo further screening for symptoms and chest x-ray looking for active lung involvement. Treatment of individuals with abnormal screening involves the use of a course of antibiotics for 6-9 months. Those with symptomatic Tuberculosis require more complex antibiotic treatment for similar periods of time.
Further information can be obtained from the CDC at:
Yours in Health,
Tom Howard, MD