Students and Faculty Exposed to Tuberculosis Strain

About 225 Students and Faculty Were Asked to Get Skin Test, Though Details Remain Undisclosed

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More than 200 UC Berkeley students and faculty received word on Wednesday that they may have been exposed to tuberculosis.

In an e-mail sent by Berkeley Health Officer Janet Berreman, about 225 students and faculty were told they might have contracted the disease in their classes and should get a skin test at the Tang Center next week.

"To protect your health and the health of those around you, it is important to determine whether or not you have been infected," she said in the e-mail.

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that is transmitted through germs in the air, and can be fatal if not treated. It usually requires six to 12 months of medical treatment for full recovery.

According to Berreman, recipients of the e-mail had been in close contact with a student who was recently diagnosed with the disease and is currently in isolation. She said she could not disclose the class or building the exposure occurred in, but that it took place in either the spring or fall semester.

Junior Ted Apstein, who received the e-mail from Berreman, said he was concerned by its lack of information about how students may have been exposed to the disease.

"I thought it was suspiciously vague," said Apstein. "They didn't say anything but went three-fourths of the message with how you can get tested. I have no idea what's going on."

After receiving skin tests, individuals will need to return in two to three days to find out the results, said Brad Buchman, medical director of university health services. Those who are found not to have the disease will still be required to come in for a repeat test in 10 to 12 weeks in case symptoms develop.

One hundred forty-two Berkeley residents have been diagnosed with tuberculosis between 1993 and 2006, including three who died, according to a report conducted by the city last year.

The most recent report of a tuberculosis case in Berkeley was in February, Berreman said.

"In Berkeley we have between five to 10 cases every year," she said. "But (this) is a little bit unusual in that the number of people exposed is large."

When a person is found to have active tuberculosis, the city's public health division first isolates the individual, then notifies those in close contact and ensures they are tested, Berreman said. She added that further testing of the original strain is needed to determine whether it is resistant to antibiotics.

"There is the drug-resistant tuberculosis, which is harder to treat," she said. "So we don't know if it is resistant-we still have to check for that."

Buchman said the origin of the strain was unknown.

"It could have been acquired in Berkeley. It could have been acquired anywhere," he said. "There is a lag before some patients develop symptoms, and as many as 50 percent of patients with active TB never develop symptoms."


Contact Melani Sutedja at [email protected]

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