Commerce – Student Health Services at Texas A&M University-Commerce will be providing screenings to some students after a classmate was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
University officials say the individual is no longer on campus and does not pose a continuing threat to the community. Some students, however, may be more at risk if they've been in contact with the infected individual for a prolonged time or in a confined space.
In a statement released Monday, the University says it's working closely with the Texas Department of State Health Services to investigate and monitor the incidence.
"We're going to notify all the students, in addition to the faculty and staff that were in contact with the student," says Maxine Mendoza-Welch, physician's assistant and Student Health Services manager. "We do know which classes the student was attending. The student is no longer on campus."
Those with a believed high risk of exposure will be required to visit the Health Center on the Commerce campus Tuesday, April 19 for a free screening. No appointment is necessary. It was not immediately clear how many students will need to be screened. Students will be asked to return to Student Health Services on Thursday, April 21 for test results.
"This [testing of students] is not optional, this is mandatory. While it's not to cause public hysteria it's the appropriate thing to do, it's the protocol to be followed, to make sure that if someone has been exposed to it they get the appropriate treatment," says Dr. Tom Selvaggi with Live Oak Professional Center in Commerce.
According to Dr. Selvaggi, the infected student was diagnosed at a heath facility in Dallas and the University was later informed by the Hunt County Health Department.
Due to HIPPA guidelines (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), the student's name will not be released.
Tuberculosis is caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis, a slow-growing bacterium that thrives in areas of the body that are rich in blood and oxygen, such as the lungs. TB in the lungs is spread to other people through the air when an infected individual coughs, laughs, speaks, sings or sneezes. The bacteria may remain airborne for several hours in some cases. For infection to occur, the bacteria must be inhaled and must reach the alveoli of the lung. Tuberculosis is either latent (dormant) or active.
Latent TB occurs when a person has the TB-causing bacteria in his/her body, but cannot spread the disease to others. However, a person with latent TB can still develop active TB. Active TB occurs when the infection is spreading in the body; if the lungs are infected, the disease can be spread to others. An individual with latent TB will have no symptoms unless the disease becomes active.
Student Health Services will make available information packets regarding the signs and symptoms of TB. Symptoms may include the following:
- ongoing cough that brings up thick, cloudy, and sometimes bloody mucus from the lungs (sputum);
- fatigue and weight loss;
- night sweats and fever;
- rapid heartbeat;
- swelling in the neck (when lymph nodes in the neck are infected); or
- shortness of breath and chest pain (in rare cases).
Students taking the following classes are to participate in the screening:
- IS-351 - Monday/Wednesday 11:00-12:15 pm
- IS-352 - Monday/Wednesday 2:00-3:3:15 pm
- Reading 360 - Wednesday 4:30-7:30 pm
- Reading 370 - Thursday 4:30-7:00 pm
When a person first develops active TB, the symptoms of the disease may be so mild the person may be unaware he/she has been infected. This also is true for people with latent TB because they have no symptoms.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, please see your personal doctor or a physician at the Health Center. If you have any questions, please call Student Health Services at 903-886-5853 or contact the Hunt County Health Department at (903) 455-4433. You also may visit www.cdc.gov/tb/faqs to learn more.