An Eastern Kentucky University student has been diagnosed as having tuberculosis (TB) and about 50 students on campus have been tested for exposure to the disease.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no other students have tested positive for TB, said Christie Green, spokesperson for the Madison County Health Department.

The student has been isolated and has been undergoing treatment since being identified in mid-October, according to a press release from Good Samaritan. The student is not currently attending classes at the campus, said EKU President Doug Whitlock.

Tuberculosis is a sometimes fatal disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis that usually attack the lungs, but can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC states that TB is spread through the air from one person to another when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings and 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, according to the CDC.

“The EKU administration and the health department TB nurses worked really quickly as soon as we got notice that the index case had contact with students here,” Green said. “We’ve already begun the skin testing and risk assessment for symptoms. We’re starting to see results, and so far we have not had any positives.”

Based on speaking with the infected student, authorities were able to make a list of every student they may have come in contact with, Green said.

Those students were contacted and brought in for testing.

“The patient had limited on-campus activity, which reduced the number of potential exposures,” Green said.

In the case of any positive results, patients will immediately begin treatment.

“Typically, even if you’re exposed, it doesn’t mean you’re going to develop TB infection,” Green said, adding that there are two phases of TB, which include latent and active.

TB is treated by taking several antibiotics for 6 to 12 months, according to a press release from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, which is conducting the investigation because the infected person is from Fayette County and worked at Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington.

Employees at the hospital who may have been exposed to TB are being tested and patients are being notified of possible exposure.

The employee worked at the hospital from June 1 to Oct. 13 on the fifth and sixth floors.

The release goes on to state that with all active cases, health department staff visit TB patients daily in their home to watch them take their medications in a process called directly observed therapy, or DOT. DOT helps the patient complete the treatment in the least amount of time and reduces the risk of transmitting the disease to others.

The incubation period of the disease can last from 10 to 12 weeks, according to the press release.

Despite the possible exposure to students, Green said there is no reason for people to panic.

“We’ve been in touch with people exposed, and that even though TB is a serious disease, it is very preventable, if we’re aware of it,” she said.

TB symptoms include feelings of weakness, weight loss, fever, night sweats, coughing, chest pain and may include coughing up blood, according to the press release.

Anyone with questions regarding TB can contact the Madison County Health Department at 623-7312.

UK HealthCare has established a toll-free number, 1-800-207-1268 for anyone with questions or concerns.

Tim Mandell can be reached at tmandell@richmondregister.com or 623-1669 ext. 6696.

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