A student at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane has been diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) and as a result 160 staff and students at the University are being screened for the disease.
Health authorities say at present there is no cause for concern and the screenings are a precautionary measure and will be extended if evidence of recent TB infection is found in the group.
The director of the Queensland Tuberculosis Control Centre, Dr. Anastasios Konstantinos, says the tests are a standard safety precaution and approximately only 140 TB cases a year crop up in Queensland of which about half are infectious; 84 have been reported so far this year.
Dr. Konstantinos, says many arise in people who work with large numbers of people or attend classes with a large number of people and the Gardens Point campus student who tested positive was an Australian citizen who is now recovering after therapy.
He says TB has a low infection rate and is extremely difficult to contract and there is a minimal risk of transmission to staff and other students.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that can affect almost any part of the body but most commonly the lungs; TB has not been eradicated from anywhere in the world, so new cases do occur but can be cured by appropriately prescribed medications; it can be a very serious disease if not diagnosed and treated.
Symptoms progress slowly, often over months, and include a cough that persists for more than 3 weeks, hoarseness, recurring chest pains, fevers, night sweats, a steady loss of weight, poor appetite, indigestion and fatigue.
TB is almost always spread by inhaling TB germ-containing droplets of moisture expelled directly from the lungs of infectious persons during coughing and sneezing, laughing and speaking.
Treatment involves the use of appropriate anti-tuberculosis drugs that are prescribed for at least a six month period, but in some cases the treatment may be prescribed for a longer period.
Once the appropriate treatment is established, the patient usually becomes non-infectious after two to three weeks and normal activities may be resumed.
TB can be cured for most patients providing the anti-tuberculosis medications are taken exactly as prescribed without interruption and under the direction of a doctor.
The most important way to prevent TB is to reduce the source of the germs by diagnosing people with TB and ensuring they are fully treated - by reducing the number of people with infectious TB in the community, the chance of exposure to TB is reduced for the general population.