On Wednesday, Binghamton University sent out an email confirming that a BU community member had been diagnosed with tuberculosis. The email also said that the community member lives off campus and will remain off campus until he or she is no longer contagious.
According to Dr. Michael Leonard, medical director of the Decker Student Health Services Center, the patient was diagnosed with active tuberculosis.
“Active tuberculosis is the term that we use for people who have TB in the lung that can be contagious,” Leonard said. “That’s the one that we are the most concerned about for obvious reasons. That is not very common in the United States at all. Our particular campus and all of the university centers are averaging one every year, or every other year.”
Latent tuberculosis, in which someone tests positive for tuberculosis bacterium but does not have an active disease process in his or her body, is much more common, according to Leonard.
“The treatment for active tuberculosis is usually a number of medications. It could be three or four medications at the same time. They usually use that many until they get the final culture report. They still send these things in for culture because when they isolate the bacteria, they can then test it for sensitivities to the different antibiotics that they have,” Leonard said.
When someone in the Binghamton community is diagnosed with active tuberculosis, the Broome County Health Department is alerted immediately, and the patient is isolated. The patient will often start therapy before conclusive tests come back, according to Leonard.
“Once they get a confirmation, they look at the situation and determine whether or not an investigation should take place,” Leonard said. “An investigation like the one we are talking about here represents immediate people who are living with the same person. These people were identified and have already been contacted by the Health Department and are already being tested to see if they have any evidence of having picked up the bacteria.”
The Health Department may decide to extend the investigation if the tests on the roommates come back positive. But according to Leonard, the Health Department has hopes that they won’t find any more TB there.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, tuberculosis is an airborne disease brought on by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
“The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected,” states the Center For Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
TB cannot, however, be spread by shaking hands, sharing food or drink or even kissing, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Ben Moosher, an undeclared sophomore, said he did not see the email but heard about the TB case through word-of-mouth.
“I’m not worried about it as long as everyone stays cautious of their surroundings,” Moosher said. “Frankly, because of how uncommon tuberculosis is nowadays, it doesn’t seem like too much of a threat to the student body as a whole.”