Tuberculosis case arises in Conn.

(U-WIRE) STORRS, Conn. – University of Connecticut officials notified students on Monday night via e-mail that a graduate student may have contracted tuberculosis, and a university spokesperson said on Tuesday that they are fairly certain the graduate student has acquired the illness.

In the e-mail sent to all students Monday night, Director of Student Health Services Michael Kurland said the disease was contracted as part of the university’s health screening process, although at the time the e-mail was sent the diagnosis had not been confirmed. He said the university has been in close contact with the Connecticut Department of Public Health and it continues to advise the university. Kurland said the student has been isolated and is doing well and will be in a hospital until it is determined she is not contagious.

According to university spokeswoman Karen Grava, although the blood culture taken to test tuberculosis can take several weeks to grow, health officials are fairly certain the graduate student has the disease. The e-mail sent to students stated there is no cause for immediate concern of the disease spreading to others on campus, but Grava said the university is testing certain groups of people.

She said the university is working in concentric circles to identify those who may be at-risk of acquiring the disease, narrowing it down into three circles.

“The first thing you do is identify people who had prolonged exposure,” Grava said. “We know who those people are, so we’re contacting them directly.”

Grava said the next circle is people who had some contact, such as those who live in the same dormitory. The final circle consists of those who may have been in the library at the same time as the graduate student. According to the e-mail sent to students, the graduate student with the suspected case of tuberculosis was in the Information Cafe on the first floor of the library on Aug. 30 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., last Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and last Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The e-mail also stated it is “highly unlikely” that the disease would be transmitted as a result of exposure at the library, but the university is still taking precautions.

– Andy Silva

Grava said only the first circle will be tested initially, but if they test positive the second circle will be tested. If that circle tests positive, the third circle will be tested. The e-mail asked those who spent a significant amount of time at the computer stations at the library to contact SHS in case a need develops for testing.

“It is just for us in case we have to go further,” Kurland said Tuesday. “People don’t need to stress over (us asking for their contact information).”

Kurland said those tested will be re-tested again in 10 to 12 weeks. Even if they test negative initially and if they don’t test positive, officials will know that the disease was not transmitted. If a significant enough number of them test positive, the second circle will be tested. The same procedure would be used to determine if the third circle needs to be tested.

The tests only determine if a person has the bacteria, not the disease.

He said a person can have the bacteria in them, but not have an active form of tuberculosis. He said that with treatment, those infected with the bacteria may never have the active disease.

“We’ve taken a very conservative approach so that we can be cognizant of safety,” Grava said.