A tuberculosis case was diagnosed at UMass Boston, dozens identified as possible close contacts

A person on UMass Boston’s campus has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, and dozens were identified as possible close contacts, according to the university.

The Boston Public Health Commission recently alerted UMass Boston’s University Health Services of an active TB case on campus.

The diagnosed person is now receiving treatment, and the individual might have been infected with TB many years before developing the active TB infection.

About 39 people on campus have been identified as possibly having close contact with the person who has active TB.

The Boston Public Health Commission has been working with the university and Massachusetts Department of Public Health to conduct contact tracing and inform close contacts about their possible exposure.

“Although TB is a serious disease caused by a germ that is spread through the air, it is important to note that the general UMass Boston community is not at increased risk for getting a TB infection as a result of this case,” University Health Services Director Robert Pomales wrote to the campus community.

The Boston Public Health Commission said in a statement, “Given that tuberculosis requires prolonged close contact to spread from one individual to another, we do not believe this active case poses a health risk to the general public.”

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University Health Services educated the campus community all about TB following the diagnosed case. TB bacteria are spread through the air from one person to another, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.

TB is not spread by: shaking someone’s hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes, or kissing.

“TB is not easily passed from person to person,” Pomales wrote. “It takes repeated and prolonged exposure in an indoor space to become infected.”

Common symptoms of active TB include ongoing cough, fevers, chills, night sweats, and weight loss.

There are two types of TB: latent and active. For most people (90%), TB remains dormant in the body and cannot be passed to anyone else — this is called latent tuberculosis. The remaining 10% develop active TB, a very serious illness if left untreated.

University Health Services routinely screens for risk factors for TB, and it tests incoming students who are considered at risk for both active and latent TB based on American College Health Association and CDC guidelines.

Students were told to contact University Health Services if they have questions or concerns, or if they would like to speak with a health care provider, by calling 617-287- 5660.

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