Tuberculosis outbreak contained, investigation ongoing

After TB outbreak students and staff are worried, but officials say it’s under control

Michael McShane
Staff Writer

Students and faculty are still worried over the outbreak of tuberculosis that hit Blue Earth County last year. But there’s both, good and bad news.

Last year, eight Blue Earth County residents contracted tuberculosis, six of those individuals being current or former Minnesota State University, Mankato students. International students as well as Minnesota residents were affected by the disease.

Tuberculosis, a bacterial infection, is spread from one person to another through coughing, sneezing, and even talking. Symptoms of TB can range from fever and chest pain to coughing up blood. 

The first case of active tuberculosis occurred in January 2018. Once it was found, an immediate and thorough investigation was undertaken by Blue Earth County health officials. Associates of those afflicted were contacted and screened for the disease. 

All eight individuals diagnosed with TB have been treated for the disease and are now no longer infectious.

President Richard Davenport released an update to all students and faculty about the TB outbreak late January this year, where he revealed that health officials have identified new cases of TB, though none of them infectious.  

President Davenport stated in the email that those not contacted by Blue Earth County officials do not have to do anything. Those that have been contacted, or those who believe they may have been in contact with the disease, should contact their primary health provider for screenings.

An FAQ released by the Student Health Services a few days later reiterated much of what was in the email and mainly answered questions many students might have about both the outbreak and tuberculosis in general.

Speaking to the Reporter directly, SHS Director Wendy Schuh talked about the ongoing investigation, and what both, the school and Blue Earth County, are doing to ensure all residents are safe from infection.

“So, the way that is that there are no known active cases because of all those active cases that have been diagnosed have been treated and are no longer infectious,” said Schuh.

MNSU is not taking any chances however, as the school is implementing screenings for all current international students. The screening was scheduled for January 30, but was canceled and rescheduled because of the polar vortex that caused temperatures to plummet to dangerous conditions and caused the entire school to close that day. 

Blue Earth County health officials are focused on trying to reach out to anyone who may potentially unknowingly have the disease.

Searching for those afflicted with TB is difficult, because it can take up to ten weeks of tuberculosis being in your system for it to show up during screening, and thus it’s impossible to get a precise number on who may or may not have tuberculosis.

With the spring semester now in its second month, the school wants to make sure all students are safe from any potential diseases. Schuh wants to make sure all students know that they are able to come to the Student Health Services Center, located in the Carkoski Commons.

“That’s something that we deal with every year, and we work with Blue Earth County regularly on any infectious disease, so not specific to TB, any infectious disease, we work with them on treating and managing that. It’s part of what we are as a medical clinic,” said Schuh.

Feature photo courtesy of self.com.

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