By Suzanne Coolen
BELLEVILLE – A student at Loyalist College has been diagnosed with active tuberculosis. Students were informed late Thursday via an email from Loyalist president Maureen Piercy.
The college community has a very low risk of contracting the disease, said Roberto Almeida of the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit. The health unit has identified and informed the people who had close contact with the student to make sure appropriate steps are taken, the health unit says.
“This person is not at the school at this time so the risk of exposure is no longer present,” Almeida said in an interview Friday. “This is a very low risk to the Loyalist population.”
There have been a few other cases of TB reported in the Belleville area recently, but they are unrelated to Loyalist, said Morgan Harnest. a public-health nurse with the health unit.
TB is spread through the air when people who have an active infection cough, sneeze, or transmit respiratory fluids. You cannot get the disease by shaking hands or otherwise touching someone who is infected.
“It is very rare to get an active case from another active case,” Harnest said.
The disease usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. It is commonly treated with antibiotics.
Because it is a rare disease, the health unit typically doesn’t recommend that people watch for symptoms, which can include fatigue, weight loss and a persistent phlegmy cough.
A report published Wednesday by the World Health Organization said that the number of people diagnosed with tuberculosis worldwide decreased last year, but there are still 3 million people who are undiagnosed and untreated.
The health unit will be offering free TB skin tests in January for any Loyalist students or staff who are concerned about possible exposure. The reason for the January scheduling is that it can take up to eight weeks after exposure to TB to get a positive result.