Whitewater tuberculosis case rare but treatable

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Stacy Vogel
Saturday, February 9, 2008
— Even though tuberculosis is rare in the United States, a confirmed case at UW-Whitewater is no cause for alarm, a Walworth County Health Department official said.

Tuberculosis is highly treatable and not easily passed on, said Beth Walsh, a public health nurse with the department.

“There really isn’t any cause to be really alarmed or really worried,” she said. “People who need to be tested, if we determine they had contact with this person, they will be contacted.”

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health notified UW-Whitewater of a confirmed case on its campus late Thursday afternoon, according to a university news release.

The student had only been on campus since the start of spring semester last month, the release said.

The case is the first of its kind in Walworth County in three or four years, Walsh said. Rock County confirmed two cases of tuberculosis in 2006, said Dr. Joseph Schurhammer, Rock County health officer.

Tuberculosis is spread, like the flu, through respiratory fluids. Those in close contact with the student, such as family members or roommates, might be at risk, but the public probably isn’t, Walsh said.

“It’s not something you’re going to get from being in the same room for a few minutes or walking down the hallway or something like that,” she said.

The disease is usually “very treatable” through antibiotics, though a drug-resistant strain has shown up recently, Walsh said.

A patient might have to take antibiotics for nine months to a year, but the disease is no longer contagious after a certain amount of time on the drugs, she said.

The UW-Whitewater student is in an area hospital and might return to campus only after medical clearance, the news release said. The university or county health department will notify close contacts of the student.

Public health guidelines identify people at risk if they’ve been within three feet of the infected person for more than an hour or live in the same room as that person.

Symptoms of tuberculosis include persistent cough, coughing up blood, night sweats, fevers and unexpected weight loss, Walsh said.

Last updated: 5:06 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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