Health officials say TB testing at HPU can wait until after Spring Break

Tim Lussier, HPU student body president
Tim Lussier, HPU student body president
Richard Brostrom, MD
Richard Brostrom, MD

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Pacific University students and faculty who may have been exposed to tuberculosis won't be tested by state health officials until April, after they return from Spring Break.

If they're infected with the bug, is there a chance they could spread it to others in the meantime?

HPU students can't help but wonder who among them has been exposed to the tuberculosis bug.

"I think it's a concern always when something like that is discussed and could be on campus," Tim Lussier, HPU student body president, said.

A student who attended Kapiolani Community College last fall and HPU this semester is now being treated for the disease. But state health officials will not conduct HPU's testing until after spring break.

"If I was an HPU student, I'd want a good answer to this question. I'd be nervous about having to wait a week-and-a-half," Richard Brostrom, MD, state Tuberculosis Branch chief, said.

Brostrom says TB is a different ball game from diseases like bird flu and SARS in that exposure doesn't demand immediate testing.

"You get a TB infection, typically you wouldn't have any problem with TB disease for seven or 10 years," he said. "So in that kind of a time scale, waiting a couple of weeks to get your skin test is perfectly ok."

Health officials identified 95 students and faculty at KCC who may have been exposed to the affected student. Since Monday, 22 of them have been evaluated and/or tested for TB.

The KCC testing is being done first because the student attended that school first.

There are 120 students and faculty at HPU targeted for testing. Some may decide to travel during Spring Break.

But experts say even if you caught someone's TB germs, they start off dormant in your body -- basically sleeping -- and are not contagious during this time.

"Even if they did breathe it in, it can't be spread, not until years and years down the road when they get sick with TB, if that should happen. That's the spread-able kind of tuberculosis," Brostrom said.

If you received an e-mail from HPU and are too anxious to wait until after Spring Break, you can certainly get tested by your own doctor.

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