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Breaking: American University Tuberculosis Case

Students at American University received an email just after 3 p.m. today regarding an on-campus student testing positive for Tuberculosis (TB). The email, which was sent by the American University Office of Campus Life, quickly sparked talk amongst the entire American University community.

According to American’s Tuberculosis FAQ, the student who tested positive for TB was last on campus Oct. 28. As of right now, the student is residing off campus and receiving treatment. At this time, no other students have reported symptoms, but the D.C. Department of Health is conducting contact tracing and reaching out to individuals who have been identified as close contacts. 

American has a screening process for TB that they have outlined on their website, which states, “all students received a TB questionnaire attached to their immunization forms last Spring.  Any student whose questionnaire suggested that they may be at increased risk of TB exposure was required to undergo a Quantiferon-Gold blood test. This is the most accurate TB test available with an extremely high sensitivity for identifying cases, as well as an extremely low rate of false positives. As of Fall 2021, the American University Student Health Center only performs Quantiferon-Gold on students at risk or suspected of having tuberculosis.” 

Dating back to the 19th century, TB used to kill one in seven people, making it an extremely contagious disease. In recent years, cases in the United States have been on a steady decline. In 2017,  there were approximately 2.8 cases per 100,000 people. In recent years, TB has not been much of a concern. 

So why the panic? TB can be an extremely serious disease that mainly affects the lungs. It can be spread in many of the same ways that COVID-19 can, but masks and other safety efforts have proven to be effective in protecting against TB. TB can not be spread by touching the surface of an infected person, and it takes time to transmit, so there needs to be prolonged contact between the affected person and other individuals in order for there to be a possibility of transmission.

TB is usually treated with a combination of different antibiotics, as some TB cases are resistant to varying prescribed medications. Treating this bacterial disease with a combination of medicines allows for them to work more effectively. 

So how does one get TB? 

“TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB germs are passed through the air when someone who is sick with TB disease coughs, laughs, sings, or sneezes. If you breathe air that has TB germs, you may get TB infection,” says the CDC.

Some symptoms of TB include general feelings of sickness, weight loss, night sweats, fever, coughing, chest pain, and coughing up blood. If you have any of these symptoms, it is suggested that you reach out to a medical professional.
For concerned students and their families, American University is hosting a community webinar on Tuesday, Nov. 2 from  4:30-5:30 p.m. This event will be hosted on Zoom allowing for questions and more information to be shared with the American community.

Gabrielle (she/her/hers) is a sophomore at American University majoring in elementary education and minoring in Spanish. She has been a writer since Fall 2020 and is the publishing director for our print magazine for Fall 2021. In her free time, she enjoys working with children and supporting diverse learners.
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