WWU Health Advisory: Low-risk tuberculosis case at WWU being treated

Testing confirms a diagnosis of active tuberculosis (TB) for a Western Washington University student who has begun to exhibit symptoms only in the last week.

The student – who lives in campus housing – is beginning treatment and will remain in isolation until determined to be no longer contagious by the Whatcom County Health Department. The student is considered low risk for contagion to others due to the early diagnosis of infection. For privacy reasons, the student’s name or other personal information is not being released.

Western officials are working with the Health Department to identify and evaluate individuals who may have had significant close contact with the student. Those individuals are being individually notified and asked to be tested for the low risk of tuberculosis exposure with a simple skin or blood test. The Health Department will determine who should be tested for TB infection.

The health and well-being of WWU students, faculty and staff is a top concern at Western. The University is working closely with the Whatcom County Health Department and will send updates to the campus community as additional information becomes available.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection, usually of the lungs, spread when an individual who has active pulmonary TB coughs or sneezes. Most infections occur when people directly inhale TB germs over an extended length of time. Brief or casual contact with an infected person does not spread the disease. Most people who become infected with tuberculosis are able to contain it and never develop the disease. TB infection without disease is not contagious and can be treated to prevent progression to active disease.

For more information about tuberculosis please see the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) web site at http://www.cdc.gov/tb/.

Sincerely,

Emily Gibson, M.D.
Director, Western Washington University Student Health
Emily.Gibson@wwu.edu; or(360)650-7328

Greg Stern, M.D., Health Officer
Whatcom County Health Department
509 Girard Street
Bellingham WA 98225
(360) 676-4593

Friday, October 24, 2014 - 1:51pm