The Cambridge Public Health Department and Harvard University Health Services are urging a limited number of students and faculty to undergo tuberculosis tests after a member of the Harvard community recently tested positive for the infection.
Students and faculty in at least two undergraduate courses—Molecular and Cellular Biology 56: ”Physical Biochemistry: Understanding Macromolecular Machines” and Physics 15b: “Introductory Electromagnetism”—were contacted in late April by the Cambridge Public Health Department, according to Jonathan A. Marks ’15, a student enrolled in both classes.
“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,” wrote Joanne Ferraro of the CPHD in an email to at-risk students obtained by the Crimson.
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial infection that typically affects the lungs and can be spread through the air. Although sometimes lethal, tuberculosis is normally treated with a course of antibiotics.
In a statement released Friday evening, Harvard University Health Services confirmed the case but emphasized the disease’s low transmission risk.
“TB is not highly contagious and therefore the risk to those who have been in contact with the affected person is low. As is practice, Harvard University Health Services 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,” wrote UHS spokesperson Lindsey Baker.
Students and faculty considered at-risk for infection have been advised by the Cambridge Public Health Department to immediately undergo tuberculin skin tests. In addition, since infected individuals may take up to twelve weeks to test positive, at-risk individuals will have to retest by mid-July, according to emails sent to students.
Tuberculosis was last reported on Harvard’s campus in 2010, when one Harvard undergraduate tested positive for the infection. Students and faculty in close contact with the individual were also asked to undergo TB testing.
—Staff writer Quinn D. Hatoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @QuinnHatoff.