VCU students nervous after tuberculosis scare

Posted at 5:43 PM, Sep 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-25 17:43:21-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Students on Virginia Commonwealth University's main campus are on alert after officials warned that 300 people had been exposed a student with active tuberculosis (TB).

Jake Greenbaum, a VCU junior majoring in business and minoring in pre-med, said he is concerned about his health. [RELATED: VCU: 300 students possibly exposed to tuberculosis]

"This is the first time I’ve had to deal with something like this,” said Greenbaum, who told Greg McQuade he is waiting anxiously for the health alert to pass. “I’ll probably tell my parents in the next week or to just to make sure I don’t have any symptoms.”

VCU’s Student Health Department said the infected student attended four different classes, including one of Greenbaum's business classes.

“I was definitely happy about the email they sent. It was timely,” said Greenbaum. “I don’t have anything yet. No deep coughs, so I think I’m going to be OK -- says WebMD.”

The junior is one of a handful of students on campus warned about a possible exposure to tuberculosis. According to a school email sent to Greenbaum, the City of Richmond notified VCU that students and staff were exposed to the person with active tuberculosis.

“TB is a bacteria and it is passed around to people to people by people coughing or sneezing if they’re sick,” VCU Student Health Director Dr. Margaret D. Roberson said. “The students that we are most interested in contacting are the students that are immune suppressed and will be at a higher risk of developing active TB in the next few years.”

TB is caused by a type of bacteria that is passed from person to person through the air when the ill person coughs, sneezes, or sings. Doctors said symptoms of active TB include night sweats, fatigue, weight loss and a persistent cough lasting more than three weeks.

“We think it is a very low risk. We don’t think there is a health emergency going on,” said Roberson. But despite the low risk, Roberson is recommending all students who were contacted to be tested.

Reactions to the TB scare varied among other students who did not receive the email.

“I’ve been pretty healthy all my life," said  junior Trey Sorrells. "It doesn’t really concern me at all. I never usually get sick."

However, junior Ashley Crist said she was shocked to hear about a case of TB on campus and wanted to "stay away from it."

TB does not spread by casual contact such as kissing, sharing drinking glasses, dishes or other objects.