UPDATED: November 26 A bacterial infection common in developing nations has surfaced at Yale.
An undergraduate student is assumed to have tuberculosis, according to an e-mail sent to members of the Yale community Tuesday morning by Director of Yale HEALTH Paul Genecin. The student is now undergoing antibiotic therapy in an isolation room at the Yale Health Center located on 55 Lock St, Genecin said in the e-mail.
“The student is already doing much better and will be able to resume normal activities at discharge [after two weeks in the isolation unit],” Genecin said.
While Yale HEALTH is still waiting for confirmation of the respiratory bacterial infection, doctors are treating the case as though it is active tuberculosis as a precautionary measure.
Because people with active tuberculosis are able to spread bacteria to others, Yale HEALTH has requested about 50 students and faculty who have been in close contact with the student to take a tuberculosis test when they arrive back on campus after fall break.
“The risk of catching tuberculosis from an actively infected person depends on the proximity and intensity of contact,” Genecin said in an e-mail to the News. “Unless someone spends significant amounts of time within 20 feet of the patient, the risk of transmission is very low.”
Only people with active tuberculosis are able to expose others to the bacteria, he said, and because people who are newly infected with tuberculosis do not cough up sputum — matter from the respiratory tract that contains the bacteria — Yale students have little to fear.
“Those who have had close contact with this student have NO potential to further spread tuberculosis at this time,” Genecin said.
He said that although many people at Yale regularly test positive for tuberculosis infection, their immune systems — in combination with appropriate drug treatment — are able to keep bacteria from causing illness in themselves and the people around them. Such cases are called latent TB infections, Genecin said.
Genecin said that tuberculosis is an infection rarely seen on the Yale campus, with a case surfacing on average every couple of years.
Tuberculosis might not be a common disease at Yale, but the Centers for Disease Control report that the disease affects approximately one in three people worldwide. The Connecticut Department of Health reported 11 cases of tuberculosis in New Haven in 2009.