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January 26, 2007

Purdue student tests positive for tuberculosis

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University student has been diagnosed with an active case of pulmonary tuberculosis, and university and Tippecanoe County health officials will begin the process of testing those who may have had close contact with the patient.The infected patient, an undergraduate student who lives off campus, has been in isolation and undergoing treatment since late last week when a clinical evaluation determined that tuberculosis was likely, said James Westman, director of the Purdue University Student Health Center. Test results confirming the diagnosis were received Wednesday (Jan. 24), he said.

The patient is currently being monitored and treated and won't return to campus activities until after being cleared by a specialist, Westman said. As a safety precaution, Purdue and county health officials are now in the process of notifying anyone who may have been exposed to the patient.

Those who may have had close contact with the patient will be asked to undergo an initial skin test to check for exposure to tuberculosis.

If both the initial test and a follow-up test three months later yield negative results, the tuberculosis-causing bacteria are not present, said Dr. Sarah Sayger, clinical director at Purdue's Student Health Center. If testing indicates that any individuals are infected, they will be asked to begin preventative therapy that includes taking an antibiotic.

Tuberculosis is only contagious when the pulmonary disease is in its active phase and is usually spread when germs are released into the air by coughing.

"For those who have been exposed and present evidence of TB infection, taking the antibiotic as directed normally kills the germ that causes tuberculosis and prevents progression to the active form of the disease," Sayger said. "To become infected, a person would generally have to spend an extended period of time in a closed environment with someone who has active TB. Since it is primarily an airborne disease, there is no danger in tuberculosis being spread by surface contact, such as the use of an infected person's dishes, linens or other such items."

Initial symptoms of active tuberculosis may include weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, fever and profuse sweating at night. If the disease moves into the lungs, symptoms also could include frequent coughing, coughing up mucus or phlegm, coughing up blood, or having chest pain when you cough.

The last confirmed case of infectious tuberculosis involving a Purdue student occurred in November 2005.

Writer:      Christy Jones, (765) 494-1089,

Sources:   James S. Westman, (765) 494-1720,

Sarah Sayger  (765) 4941720

Marcia Muller, Tippecanoe County Health Department, (765) 423-9222,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Related Web sites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tuberculosis page:

Purdue Student Health Center:

Tippecanoe County Health Department:


Related information:
Facts about tuberculosis:


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