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Tuberculosis Suspect Case Released, No Other Cases Found

Mather House is located at 10 Cowperthwaite Street.
Mather House is located at 10 Cowperthwaite Street.
By Angela N. Fu and Dianne Lee, Crimson Staff Writers

A Mather House resident suspected of having tuberculosis has been released from isolation after two weeks, although the individual will continue to undergo treatment for the disease, according to Harvard University Health Services director Paul J. Barreira.

In March, Barreira alerted Mather residents to a potential case of tuberculosis in the House. Since then, Barreira said that those who were at risk for the disease have been notified, and no other individuals with symptoms of tuberculosis have been identified.

Mather House.
Mather House. By Gladys M Kisela

According to the Center for Disease Control, tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease which, if left untreated, can be fatal. The Cambridge Public Health Department reported an average of six confirmed tuberculosis cases annually in Cambridge from 2012 to 2016, and reported three cases last year.

HUHS worked in conjunction with the Cambridge Public Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to identify and contact individuals at risk of infection.

Barreira said while Harvard’s tuberculosis case is still unconfirmed—the individual’s test results are expected in about a month—the individual exhibiting symptoms was put under self-isolation and treated as a confirmed case “out of an abundance of caution.” The student was released after two weeks, which is the amount of time a tuberculosis patient is capable of spreading the disease to others.

“The feeling was, let’s treat this as TB, do the isolation until the two weeks of treatment, look at other close contacts with the person, and make sure there’s no symptoms in those people—there have not been—and treat it as an isolated case,” Barreira said.

Barreira added that while the acute treatment and self isolation during the two week infectious period has ended, the individual will continue to remain in treatment for many months afterward.

Barreira said he does not expect to see another case of tuberculosis at Harvard.

“Nobody else has symptoms, so I don’t expect to see another case of TB, and were it to happen, I think it would be for a different reason,” he said. “I wouldn’t think it to be related to this particular patient.”

Barreira has also said that he has not seen any cases of E. coli at Harvard despite a recent outbreak linked to Chicken & Rice Guys food outlets.

The outbreak has affected 15 people in the greater Boston area. However, none of the cases were related to the food truck on Harvard’s campus, according to marketing manager Steven Collicelli.

—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.

—Staff writer Dianne Lee can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @diannelee_.

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