Important Health Advisory

Dec. 14, 2017

Dear Brandeis Students, Faculty and Staff,

This week a Brandeis graduate student was diagnosed with an active case of tuberculosis (TB). Thankfully, this member of our community, who has been isolated, is doing well and responding positively to treatment.

We are working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to take precautions to help keep our community members healthy. We have identified those on campus with exposure to the individual, and they are being contacted and offered testing for infection. If you have not already received a separate notification, you do not need to be tested.

Given that TB is widespread in much of the world, including areas where students may visit or study, we would like to take this opportunity to increase awareness of TB. We encourage people returning from travel to high-prevelance areas to get screened for tuberculosis 10 to 12 weeks after their return.

TB is spread through the air from a person with active disease. You cannot get TB from clothes, drinking glasses, eating utensils, handshakes, toilets, other surfaces or from someone with a latent (inactive) TB infection. Many factors determine the likelihood of transmission, including length of exposure, infectivity of the strain of bacteria and a person’s susceptibility related to their health status. Most exposures do not lead to infection. It is important to note that people can be infected with TB and not have symptoms of the disease (latent TB infection) and that only people with the active, symptomatic disease can infect others. In the event someone tests positive for an infection, treatment can keep the latent (inactive) TB from becoming an active disease. Many people with inactive TB never develop an active infection. A good resource for more information about TB is the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website.

Symptoms of an active tuberculosis infection include:

  • A cough with thick, cloudy, or bloody mucus from the lungs for more than two weeks.

  • Fever, chills and night sweats.

  • Fatigue and weakness.

  • Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss.

  • Shortness of breath and chest pain.

These types of symptoms should always be reported to a health care professional.

Individuals with certain health conditions are at greater risk for infection. These include conditions that cause immunosuppression, such as cancer, HIV, diabetes, silicosis, substance abuse, very low body weight, gastric bypass, and medical treatments such as corticosteroids, organ transplant treatments, and certain treatments for rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s.  

The health and wellbeing of our community is our primary concern. We are advising you of this development because any occurrence of TB disease is a cause for concern and as a community we care for one another. If you have further questions or concerns about tuberculosis risk or testing, please contact the Health Center at 781-736 -3677.

Debra Poaster, MD
Medical Director, Brandeis Health Center

Diana Denning, NP
Administrative Director, Brandeis Health Center