TB Reported at USF



Steve Huard, Public Information Officer

Hillsborough County Health Department

(813) 298-2024


Lara Wade, Media/Public Affairs Manager

University of South Florida

(813) 974-9060



CASE OF tUBERCULOSIS REPORTED AT University of South Florida


TAMPA, May 22, 2012—A presumed case of tuberculosis (TB), involving a University of South Florida student on the Tampa campus, has been reported to the Hillsborough County Health Department.  Currently, the student is undergoing precautionary TB drug therapy, recovering in isolation, and is no longer a health risk to others.  With assistance from the university, the Hillsborough County Health Department Tuberculosis Center has notified approximately 30 students, faculty, staff, and community members who were at risk of exposure and will begin testing this group next week.


“USF and our Center are collaborating to ensure the health and safety of all students, employees, and members of the student’s community,” said Hillsborough County Health Department Tuberculosis Center Manager Jylmarie Lewis. 


This is the second case of suspected TB on the campus in 2012—another student was treated for TB in February—but the incidents appear to be unrelated.  According to Lewis, given the campus’ population of more than 40,000 persons, the occurrence of two cases aligns with Hillsborough County’s annual statistics on TB cases.


TB is a disease that usually infects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body, causing serious illness.  It is spread when an infected person coughs, talks, sings, or sneezes untreated TB germs into the air.  Persons who breathe in the germs can become infected—typically, only persons who have had very close, day-to-day contact with the infected person run the risk of contracting the disease.  TB is less contagious than measles, mumps, chicken pox, and influenza, and, even if a person is infected, the disease may remain dormant and not contagious to others.  For more information about TB, visit www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/factsheets/general/tb.htm. 


Students and employees of USF with additional questions may call the Student Health Services nurse line at (813) 974-1797, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m.  If a student or employee not identified/notified by the Health Department wants to be tested for TB, they may schedule an appointment at Student Health Services by calling (813) 974-2331. Student Health Services will charge for services rendered. 


All other inquiries can be directed to the Hillsborough County Health Department at (813) 307-8047.


Tuberculosis (TB) Information

Source: Hillsborough County Health Department

What causes TB?

TB is caused by a bacteria or germ. 

How is it spread?

Through respiratory droplets carried on the air.

What does skin testing involve?

Placing test material, called tuberculin, under the skin. In 2-3 days it is checked to see if there is a reaction. This is the most common test used for TB testing; however, the Health Department is recommending a blood test for those who have been exposed.

 What does TB blood testing (aka interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA) testing) involve?

TB blood testing or IGRA identifies the presence of TB infection by measuring a person’s immune response. Unlike the skin test, only one visit is required to obtain the blood sample.

How did the Health Department determine who should be tested?

TB has been around for a long time; so we know how it is spread, who is at risk, and in what situations it is most likely to pass from one person to another. By speaking with university officials, we were able to determine those students, faculty and staff with the longest and closest contact with the person who has TB.

Why isn’t the whole university being tested?

Testing is used to help us determine if the infection has spread from this one person. An estimated 5-10% of students, faculty and staff at the university already have TB infection, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information and United States estimates. If we tested everyone, we would not be able to identify if we have actually had TB spread at the school. By first limiting the number of people tested to those with the closest contact we can identify the risk of spread to the rest of the student, faculty and staff population.

Why isn’t the university being closed?

Being at the university at this time does not pose a health risk for TB infection. The TB germ was first identified in 1882. TB itself has been in existence since ancient Greek times. Thus it has been well studied. We know how TB is spread, we know how contagious TB is, we know what conditions make the spread of TB easier or more difficult, and we know how long it takes from the time of contact (exposure) to the time of infection (up to 8 weeks). Because we know all this information, you can be assured that we can identify who needs testing and perform that testing without further interrupting the university’s curriculum or extra curricular activities.

Does this have anything to do with the flu?


What is the difference between flu symptoms and TB symptoms?

Flu symptoms come on suddenly and usually have sinus congestion (stuffy nose), sneezing, and sore throat associated with it. TB symptoms come on gradually and include a cough that lasts more than 3 weeks and does not get better, night sweats, unexpected weight loss, and maybe coughing up blood.

Is there cleaning that needs to be done at the university?

The TB germ does not survive on surfaces and must be breathed in to cause infection. Regular routine cleaning of the university is all that is needed.

Are there precautions we can take at home?  Can I take this home to my family?

Remember, only a person who is sick with TB disease can spread it. A person with infection (i.e., no symptoms) cannot spread the germ. By finding out who has infection, we can then see if any of them are sick. Until then, there is no need to be concerned about bringing TB home. Good hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing hands well, and staying home when you are sick are the best preventive measures for all types of illnesses.

Can it be cured?

Yes. TB is treatable and can be cured. That is why we are doing the screening and testing. If someone is infected, there is a preventive treatment that can be offered to keep that person from getting sick.

What is the preventive treatment?

Preventive treatment for TB consists of one anti-TB medication and one vitamin, taken daily, for nine months.

What are the side effects of TB?

The symptoms of TB include a cough lasting more than 3 weeks, night sweats lasting more than a week, unexplained weight loss, a productive cough, or coughing up blood. The “side effects” of TB may include fatigue or tiredness, shortness of breath, and chest pain or tightness.

What is the death rate of TB?

First off, TB is preventable and curable. Those who die with TB usually have not been tested or sought medical attention. In 2009, there were 540 deaths in the United States from TB (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/tb/publications/factsheets/statistics/Trends.pdf, retrieved 02.06.2012).

If my child or I have underlying respiratory illnesses, like bronchitis or asthma, are we at greater risk?

No. Underlying health or medical conditions do not make TB infection more likely. However, if a person with an underlying health condition is infected they may be at higher risk for getting sick. This is another reason why only testing those who are at risk for exposure is important. That way we can find out who has the infection and needs further follow-up.

What if I want myself or others in my family tested and our names are not on the list?

The Health Department does not recommend TB testing for people who are not at risk for infection (in other words they have not been exposed). If you want to pursue testing then please call your doctor or visit a walk in clinic for testing. You may also contact Student Health Services at (813) 974-2331; there will be a charge for testing anyone who has not been recommended by the Health Department for testing.

I am taking immune suppressive drugs, how does that affect me?

As with underlying illnesses, taking immune suppressive drugs does not make someone more likely to have been infected. Again, it is important if you are on the list to be tested to get the TB test. If you are infected, we can recommend medical follow-up. You can also consult your doctor who is prescribing those medications.

I am pregnant or a family member is pregnant. Is testing safe for them?

If you are at risk for exposure and are pregnant (your name is on the list), it is safe for the testing to be done. If the pregnant woman is infected, we work with her obstetrician to make sure she is in good health for her and her baby’s safety. Generally, we wait to give preventive treatment until 3 months after the baby is born. If a pregnant person has not been exposed or in contact with the person who has TB, than no testing is indicated.

What is “close prolonged contact”?

There is a general rule that at least eight hours of close prolonged contact time must have occurred for someone to be considered in enough contact with a person with TB for spread of the bacteria to happen.

What if I passed the person with TB in the hall or the Marshall Center or somewhere else on campus?

Sunlight kills the TB germ, so any outside activities are excluded for exposure consideration. Because of the way air circulates throughout the buildings, we are concentrating our testing only on those people who have been in the same classroom with the person with TB. There is a general rule that at least eight hours of close prolonged contact time must have occurred for someone to be considered in enough contact with a person with TB for spread of the bacteria to happen.

Is there a vaccine or prevention against TB?

There is no TB vaccine given in the United States. TB is not a common illness here; there is an average of 80 cases reported in Hillsborough County each year. That is 80 in a population of 1.2 million. Since TB is not common in the US, no vaccine is given. In 2003, the CDC recommended against routine testing for TB because it is no longer common. Nowadays we only test those who have a risk for TB, such as contact with a person with TB or moving to the US from a country in which TB is common. As mentioned above, if a person tests positive on the test for TB, then an assessment will be made to determine whether medication, and which medication, is appropriate.