Information best cure for alarm

Alexandra Nicolas

With 11 students testing positive for exposure to TB bacteria, students are expressing concern about their health and safety.

TB is caused by the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis and usually settles in the lungs or throat though it can affect other parts of the body. The disease is transferred through the air when a person with active TB coughs or sneezes.

The Joplin Health Department in collaboration with the Missouri Southern Health Center flagged 142 students and faculty most likely to be affected to undergo testing.

“[The JHD] is very satisfied with how things are going,” said Rod Surber, director of public information.

The 11 students who tested positive have what is known as latent TB.

Latent TB has no symptoms and the infected person does not feel sick and cannot spread TB to others. Unless treated, a person infected with latent TB could develop active TB later if their immune system is weakened.

Active TB occurs when the body cannot fight off the bacteria due to an immune deficiency, substance abuse, low body weight, sever kidney disease, or certain kinds of cancers. Symptoms of active TB are a bad cough lasting three or more weeks, chills, fever, weight loss, no appetite, pain in the chest, coughing up blood and having a positive skin test. Those with active TB may also transfer TB to others they are in close regular contact with.

Though TB is highly treatable it was once the leading cause of death in the United States and more than 14,000 cases were reported in 2004. The treatment for TB consists of a regime of several medications to kill all the bacteria present. Those with active TB are contagious and need to stay away from others to prevent the spread of the disease.

Those at highest risk are those who had a close personal relationship with an infected person.

“Everyone in my class was tested and has to be tested twice,” said Dr. John Knapp Jr., professor of geophysics who thinks the student may have been in his class.

The University Health Center has provided TB skin testing, a small amount of fluid injected under the skin of the right forearm. Many students have gone unprompted to confirm they are not in any danger of contracting TB.

“I chose to be tested because I would rather know that I don’t have TB than sit around and wait for the University to maybe contact me,” said Rachel Roberds sophomore mass communication broadcasting major.

Students who think they may be displaying symptoms or want to be tested for peace of mind may contact the Joplin Health Department at 623-6122.