UCSD Reports Potential Tuberculosis Outbreak

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency notified UCSD on May 15 about a potential outbreak of tuberculosis on campus, several news outlets reported. The period of exposure, or the time in which people may have been exposed to the disease, is anywhere from January 25 to May 15, according to the HHSA.

As Jacqueline Carr, Assistant Executive Director of Communications told the UCSD Guardian, “We have been working with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency to determine which individuals on campus needed to be tested.”

Free testing will be available beginning on May 30 at the Student Health Center to students who are known to have been exposed.

On May 23, the school sent a secure message through the electronic health record to all students who were identified as being at risk and in need of testing. The faculty and staff who were exposed were also notified by the UC San Diego Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

We have to follow the direction of the San Diego County [HHSA] Carr explained. “When a case like this happens, we notify the campus departments that need to be involved to ensure the individual is able to receive proper care while preventing any further exposure to others on campus.”

Symptoms of tuberculosis aren’t usually apparent, though when they are they include coughing, unusual weight loss, night sweats and fever. The disease is spread by airborne bacteria after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Exposure would have to be four continuous hours or eight hours of intermittent contact to put someone at risk. Tuberculosis is preventable by vaccine and is usually treatable by medicine, but untreated cases have the potential for becoming fatal.

Carr also told the UCSD Guardian there hasn’t been a case of tuberculosis on campus since 2013.

“In 2010, we started requiring all incoming undergraduate and graduate students to submit tuberculosis screening as part of their admission requirements” Carr said.  “This was to prevent any incoming student with active tuberculosis from starting school … The admission requirement of screening all incoming students for tuberculosis has had a great impact considering this is our first case in five years.”

Photo by Siddharth Atre | UCSD Guardian