Possible exposure to tuberculosis determined at UTSA Downtown Campus

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(Nov. 12, 2009)--UTSA has been notified by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District that a small number of students and staff at the UTSA Downtown Campus may have been exposed to tuberculosis (TB) during the current semester. Of the more than 6,000 faculty and students at the UTSA Downtown Campus, 78 people were potentially exposed through an individual with a confirmed case of TB.

Health authorities believe the individual was at low risk of transmitting tuberculosis to other individuals. Students and staff at the UTSA Downtown Campus identified as being possibly at risk for exposure will be screened as a precautionary measure. UTSA is taking a proactive role with Metro Health in the facilitation of this investigation.

Potentially affected faculty and students were made aware of the possible exposure today. Metro Health provided information and letters about TB screening to this select group. The health department also held informational meetings to answer questions and explain procedures being taken to protect the health of those impacted by the investigation. The health and well being of the students, university employees and the community is UTSA and public health's top priority.

Tuberculosis is an illness caused by bacteria, resulting in infection typically affecting the lungs. Information from the American Pulmonary Association states, "It is not easy to contract an infection of tuberculosis." Usually, a person must have close contact with the infected person for a substantial length of time. Active tuberculosis can be prevented with the use of proper medication.

For more information, contact the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Chest Clinic at (210) 207-8823 or UTSA Students Health Services -- Main Campus, (210) 458-4142, or Downtown Campus, (210) 458-2930. Individuals also can contact their personal health care providers.

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Tuberculosis (TB) FAQ

Q: What happened at UTSA?

A: UTSA was notified by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) that some of its students and staff possibly were exposed to tuberculosis (TB) during the past few months. Health authorities believe the individual was at low risk of transmitting tuberculosis to other individuals. Students and staff at UTSA identified by Metro Health as being at-risk for exposure will be screened as a precautionary measure. UTSA is taking a proactive role with Metro Health in the facilitation of this investigation.

Q: How many students and staff were affected?

A: Of the more than 6,000 students, faculty and staff at the UTSA Downtown Campus, 78 people are identified as being at low-risk for exposure. Metro Health will personally be handing a letter or mailing a letter home to these students and staff with information on TB screening. It's important that they participate in the TB screening.

Q: Are those identified to be tested possibly contagious at this time?

A: According to Metro Health, no. Persons who have merely been exposed to tuberculosis are not contagious. Even a person that was exposed and infected with tuberculosis is not contagious so long as they do not have active symptoms of disease. Contact investigations are conducted to identify persons recently infected, asymptomatic and not contagious (latent TB infection or LTBI). If a new case is found, a new contact investigation begins around that person.

Q: What notification will go the public?

A: UTSA faculty and students identified for screening were made aware of the situation, Thursday, November 12. An informational meeting was held to answer questions and explain procedures taken to protect the health of our community.

Q: Should students, staff and parents be concerned? What would you say to concerned students, staff and parents?

A: Health authorities believe the individual was at low risk of transmitting tuberculosis to other individuals. Concerned students, staff and parents should contact the Metro Health District Chest Clinic at (210) 207-8823 or their own primary care physicians.

Q: What will those students possibly exposed to TB need to do?

A: Metro Health with UTSA will conduct TB screening within the next few weeks. The TB test will be administered to the students and staff members who were possibly exposed.

Q: Was the person with active tuberculosis a student or a staff member?

A: To respect the federally protected privacy rights of the individual, no information will be given out that pertains to their identity.

Q: How did that person get it?

A: To protect the privacy rights of the individual, no information will be given out that pertains to their identity.

Q: Should staff and students rush to their doctors or hospital this weekend?

A: No. Metro Health will be testing identified staff and students on scheduled dates. It is highly recommended that identified staff and students be tested on those dates. Metro Health has spoken to them and is available to answer their questions.

Metro Health is not recommending testing of other staff or students. Individuals can direct questions pertaining to tuberculosis to Metro Health or their primary care providers.

Q: Why aren't you testing all students?

A: Metro Health has determined that students or staff not identified do not need to be tested. Metro Health evaluates multiple factors when determining who requires screening for possible exposure to tuberculosis.

Q: What is the exposure level?

A: Metro Health determined the exposure level to be a low risk.

Q: What factors did Metro Health use in considering which classes need testing?

A: Metro Health evaluates multiple factors when determining who requires screening for possible exposure to tuberculosis.

Q: Can any student request testing, regardless of being identified by Metro Health?

A: Metro Health will offer testing to those identified only. Staff and students not identified by Metro Health are not considered at risk for possible exposure, and Metro Health does not recommend their testing.

Staff and students not identified by Metro Health can talk to their primary care providers regarding testing.

Q: Whom can these students call for more information?

A: For more information, students can call Metro Health at (210) 207-8823 or UTSA Student Health Services -- Main Campus, (210) 458-4142, or Downtown Campus, (210) 458-2930.