TB tests urged for 200 students

Request comes after woman who took classes at BCCC gets treatment

Maryland

November 10, 2006|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun reporter

City health officials are asking about 200 students who took classes at Baltimore City Community College last summer to undergo tuberculosis tests after learning that a summer school student had contracted the disease.

Health officials have sent letters to students who may have come into contact with the infected woman over the summer, according to Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the city health commissioner.

"It's not at all something to panic over," Sharfstein said. The city Health Department handles about 50 to 60 tuberculosis cases a year, he said. Nationwide, federal officials say, there were 14,000 cases of TB in 2004, and about 600 deaths.

The student was hospitalized for a few days with a severe cough, but improved and was released, Sharfstein said. He said confidentiality rules prohibit identification of the woman.

The most common symptoms of tuberculosis are a chronic cough, night sweats and weight loss, according to Dr. Kima Taylor, an assistant health commissioner.

Tuberculosis is spread by coughing or sneezing, but it requires close contact, and many of those infected develop only latent tuberculosis. That means they show no symptoms and cannot spread the disease, Taylor said.

People can have latent tuberculosis for years and never know it, but they also can develop active tuberculosis if they're not treated, she said.

Both latent and active tuberculosis respond well to treatment, but the active form requires patients to take more medication and stay at home for up to a few weeks to avoid spreading the disease, she said.

Health officials will give free tests to students at the Liberty Heights campus in the morning and afternoon at the nurses' office Monday, Wednesday and next Friday, Taylor said.

The test consists of an injection in the forearm and a return visit two days later to check for a skin reaction.

Information: 410-396-4438.

dennis.obrien@baltsun.com

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