Dean of Students Kevin Banks otherwise cheery message to the student body had a bit of serious news.
“I certainly hope you are enjoying your summer break or at least a much lighter course load if taking advantage of summer session!” he wrote. “I am e-mailing you today as a courtesy to let you know that a presumed case of tuberculosis (TB) has just surfaced here on the Tampa campus.”
The case, reported by Student Health Services (SHS) to the Hillsborough County Health Department early last week, was the second case spotted on campus this year. But the earlier case, spotted in February, had no connection to this case and it is unlikely that the two students ever came in contact, Steve Huard, Public Information Officer for the Department said.
“It’s fairly common,” he said. “While it’s a disease we’ve almost been able to eradicate in the United States, it’s still pretty prevalent in other countries.”
Huard said Hillsborough County sees approximately 80 cases of tuberculosis annually.
The case, he said, poses little threat to the majority of students and faculty on campus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, TB, which usually affects the lungs, is an airborne disease in which TB germs come in contact with air through saliva droplets that can stay in the air for several hours, depending on the environment. People infected with TB first develop a latent form of the disease which can remain dormant for years before manifesting as active tuberculosis, if it ever does.
About 30 students, faculty, staff and community members were contacted by the Health Department to be tested, Huard said.
“We do an investigation based on a person and where they go. Everything is based off of that person,” he said. “Unless you’re in one of those 30 people who have been contacted already, you’re risk would be very, very low to the point where we don’t believe people would even require testing,”
In February, about 150 USF students, faculty, staff and community members were identified. Though he said he did not know the results of the tests, Huard said they had completed two rounds of testing.
Students wanting more information can call the SHSnurse hotline at (813) 974-1797, or schedule an appointment to be tested at SHS at (813) 974-2331.
Banks assured students in his email that “both USF and the Hillsborough County Health Department have (their) best interests at heart,” and that more information would be provided if there are additional updates to the situation.
Huard said because the case poses minimal risk, it is a good learning experience for students.
“I think this is a good opportunity to learn about a disease that’s been out there and with us for many, many years and see how to prevent it,” he said. “It’s a good piece of education for people to move forward with in their lives.”
– Reporting by Divya Kumar