Student with TB prompts testing at HPU & KCC

Students and faculty will be tested for TB at HPU and KCC
Students and faculty will be tested for TB at HPU and KCC

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is hoping to prevent the spread of tuberculosis at two college campuses on Oahu. A student who attended classes at Hawaii Pacific University's downtown campus this semester and Kapiolani Community College last fall is being treated for an active form of TB. According to KCC, the state will test approximately 81 students and three faculty members at the school. The Department of Health said roughly 120 students and faculty at HPU would be screened. Both schools sent out an email notifying their respective campuses.

"As a student, it's kind of scary because we're always in close contact with everybody around here. It's kind of a small community, so if the person's on the campus all the time, chances are anybody could have it," said HPU student Owen Pearson.
"TB remains the number one bacterial killer in the world. Every 20 seconds, unfortunately, someone dies from TB in the world," said Dr. Richard Brostrom of the Hawaii State Department of Health.
Hawaii has the highest TB rate in the country. Last year at least 123 active cases were reported in the state. Students and faculty who shared the same classroom as the ill student are being urged to get tested.
"We are very concerned about the health and safety of the students and faculty and staff at the campus," said Carol Hoshiko, KCC's Dean of College Relations.
"We would be shocked if any of them actually had TB. It usually takes many years to get TB after you've been exposed, but we want to make sure that none of them have evidence of new exposure to TB," explained Brostrom.
The bacteria that causes TB is spread through the air, often by coughing or sneezing. The disease normally attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body.

 "The other symptoms that can show up, besides the coughing, are night sweats, unexplained weight loss, people that can lose ten or twenty pounds and they're not really trying to lose weight, fevers," said Brostrom.

According to the state, the student who fell ill is responding well to treatment. Experts emphasize that there is no need to panic.
"The state is moving quickly to make sure everybody gets tested and for those who need medications. We'll provide free medicine for those who may have been exposed," said Brostrom.
The results from the tests at KCC are expected later this week. The testing at HPU will happen after Spring Break during the week of April 2.
Two forms of TB exist, both of which are treatable and curable:
  1. Latent TB infection – when a person has TB bacteria in their body but the body's immune system is protecting them and they are not sick.  Someone with latent TB infection cannot spread the infection to other people.
  2. Active TB disease – when a person becomes sick with TB because their immune system can no longer protect them.  Someone with active TB disease may be able to spread the disease to other people.

For more information on tuberculosis or TB testing, the public may call the DOH Hawaii Tuberculosis Control Program at 832-5731 or visit the following websites:

The following is a letter sent to students at Kapiolani Community College:

Dear Kapiolani Community College Student:

In keeping the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff a high priority, we want to inform you of a possible exposure to tuberculosis (TB) from a student who attended classes at Kapi'olani Community College. We are taking appropriate steps to ensure everyone's well-being. The college's administrators are working closely with the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) Tuberculosis Control Program who has evaluated the situation and is providing guidance to the college.

You have not had classroom contact with the student who has TB, and therefore you DO NOT need to be tested for TB at this time.
The DOH thoroughly assessed the risk of TB transmission at the college and at this time, it is NOT recommended that all students, faculty, and staff be tested for TB. Only those students and faculty whom the DOH has identified as having contact in the same classroom with the student need to be tested. If you still have concerns, you may go to your physician to be tested.

Thank you again for your understanding and cooperation in this matter and for working together to help Kapi'olani Community College ensure a safe and caring learning environment. Attached are some "Questions and Answers about Tuberculosis (TB)". If you have any questions, please call the DOH Tuberculosis Control Program at 832-5731.


Richard Brostrom, MD-MSPH
Chief, Tuberculosis Control Branch
Hawaii State Department of Health
Dr. Leon Richards
Kapi'olani Community College

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