Tuberculosis officials say cases not uncommon on college campuses

State health officials are getting involved in a tuberculosis investigation at KU, now that one student is infected with the disease. With 36 cases of TB last year in Kansas and 9,000 across the country, officials say it’s not unusual, especially on college campuses.

“About 10 to 15% of our cases are usually on college campuses,” says TB Controller for KDHE Phil Griffin.

Griffin says many people with TB infection may never show symptoms, but it’s when that infection turns into an active disease that makes it contagious.

“One of the factors that will cause a TB infection into a TB disease is that a person’s immune system will be weakened,” Griffin says, “So when you consider all the pressures often times students are under, it’s their first time away from home, the pressure of just being in school and trying to meet deadlines and those kind of things.”

School officials sent an e-mail out saying fewer than 50 students may have been exposed. They’ve been contacted and will be tested over the next few days.

“There is no vaccine for tuberculosis and that’s one of the reasons that we still see it around today,” Griffin says, “There is a screening process that’s required at all colleges and universities in the state of Kansas and that identifies all those who are at high risk for tuberculosis.”

That includes people who have been exposed to others with TB or visited countries where it’s more common. Griffin doesn’t believe anyone on KU’s campus should be concerned.

“I really do not believe we’ll find any transmission as we go through this process,” he says.

Griffin says they’ll do follow up testing in eight weeks, that’s typically how long it takes to find out if someone is infected. As for the one confirmed case, Griffin expects that student will make a full recovery. Griffin says only about 10% of people with TB infection end up developing the disease.

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