What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a highly curable and preventable bacterial disease caused by a germ breathed into the lungs. Tuberculosis is spread through the air, via repeated exposure to an active TB carrier's coughing and sneezing.
What are the symptoms of tuberculosis?
The most common symptoms of tuberculosis disease are prolonged coughing, fever, weight loss, night sweats and severe fatigue.
Once a case of tuberculosis was identified at Davidson, how did you decide who to screen for tuberculosis exposure?
Although tuberculosis is an infectious disease, the possibility of spreading it through casual contact is low.
Davidson College is following the testing protocols of the Mecklenburg County Health Department, which will recommend testing of the infected person's close contacts. We ask for your patience as we continue to hear from the Health Department's investigation regarding the most appropriate individuals to test.
I haven't been told that I should be tested. Should I get tested on my own?
We encourage potential close contacts to wait for official Health Department testing, as the Health Department has had previous expertise in similar college situations. We will provide updates as we obtain more specific information from the Health Department.
How is tuberculosis diagnosed?
A skin test, known as a TST test, can detect latent tuberculosis. A chest x-ray is needed to diagnose active TB. Thus, a positive skin test does not necessarily indicate active TB. (It can indicate exposure to TB or a previous TB vaccination.) If you get a positive TST test, you need to have a chest x-ray to exclude the possibility of active tuberculosis.
Could I become infected by being around someone who was in contact with the infected person?
It is highly unlikely. Tuberculosis can be spread only through close contact with someone who has active TB disease.
What is Davidson's college policy on testing for tuberculosis before students arrive on campus or before faculty and staff begin work?
For students, Davidson College follows standard testing protocols recommended by the North Carolina Division of Public Health, the American Thoracic Society and the American College Health Association. Under these protocols, if a person is determined to be at low risk for tuberculosis, a TST is not required for entrance to the college community. If a person is determined to be at high risk for TB exposure (for example, if the person had been in recent close or prolonged contact with someone with active TB, if they were born in or traveled within a country where TB is endemic, or if they previously worked in a high-risk congregate setting), they are required to present documentation of a current TB test.
Davidson faculty and staff are not required to provide information about their TB status before beginning work.
Where can I get more information about tuberculosis?
Our Student Health Center is available to assist with your concerns. Staff are on hand weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also have helpful information on their Web site.
Prepared by Craig White, M.D., and Davidson College Student Health Center
November 16, 2009
Updated November 17, 2009