PULLMAN, Wash. — An active case of pulmonary tuberculosis has been confirmed in a Washington State University student.
Dr. Bruce Wright, director of WSU Health and Wellness Services, said he is confident the situation poses no significant threat to other students or the general population. He said health officers have interviewed the patient and friends to determine the potential spread of bacteria. Examinations of individuals who have had close contact with the patient are underway.
Wright said that tests conducted earlier this week showed positive for TB in a 27-year-old male student who had been living alone in Rogers Hall.
The student has withdrawn from the university and is undergoing treatment. He is returning soon to the Puget Sound area and will be isolated until all infectious signs are eliminated, Wright said. He described the student as quiet and academically focused with limited social contacts.
Wright said that for others to become infected by the airborne disease, they would have to be in a small room with the subject for at least three hours. Casual contact, such as sitting next to someone with the disease in a classroom or at a sporting event, does not constitute the type of exposure needed for the disease to be transmitted.
Wright said he believes the infected student may have been exposed outside the United States several years ago, but no symptoms of the disease appeared until early this month.
Students concerned about possible exposure should contact the WSU Health and Wellness Office at 509/335-3575. Non-students may talk with Fran Martin at the Whitman County Health Department at 509/397-6280.
There have been no cases of tuberculosis at WSU or in Whitman County in several years.
TB was once the leading cause of death in the United States, but the disease was nearly eradicated with the discovery of several effective drugs in the 1940s. However, its incidence has been on the rise, with 25,000 cases reported in 1993.
The majority of TB cases in the United States occur in individuals whose immune systems are compromised.