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Harvard confirms case of tuberculosis, recommends testing for some

Posted by Your Town  May 14, 2013 02:02 PM

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A member of the Harvard community has tested positive for tuberculosis, and the university is recommending those who may have come in contact with the affected person to be tested for the disease, according to a Harvard official.

Lindsey Baker, a spokeswoman for Harvard University Health Services, wrote in a statement that the school has notified the Cambridge Public Health Department.

"As is practice, Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) notified the Cambridge Public Health Department, which alerted those who may have come into contact with the affected person and encouraged those people to be tested," she wrote.

Baker said that tuberculosis (TB) is not highly contagious and therefore the risk for contracting it is low.

According to the CDC, TB is caused by a bacteria that usually attacks the lungs, but it can attack any part of the body such as the brain, kidney, and spine. If TB is not treated, the disease can be deadly.

The disease is spread through the air, the CDC website says, and a rate of 3.4 cases per 100,000 people were reported in the US in 2011. Since 1992, the number of cases has decreased each year.

"The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings," according to the website. "People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected."

According to The Crimson, students and faculty in at least two undergraduate clases — Physics 15b: “Introductory Electromagnetism” and Molecular and Cellular Biology 56: ”Physical Biochemistry: Understanding Macromolecular Machines” — were notified at the end of April by the Cambridge Public Health Department.

“The Cambridge Public Health Department has been working with the Harvard University Infection Control nurses to identify people at greatest risk of TB infection/disease, and to prevent further TB disease,” Joanne Ferraro of the CPHD wrote in an e-mailed message to at-risk students obtained by The Crimson.

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe.com. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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