Tuberculosis warning issued for Cal State San Marcos

The county health department warned Cal State San Marcos students and staff Wednesday to be on the lookout for symptoms of tuberculosis infection after someone on campus tested positive for the disease.

A public notice did not indicate how many people have been affected or which specific parts of the North County campus they frequented, though a CSUSM spokesperson said in an email that only a single person connected to the university has tested positive so far.

According to the health department, anyone on campus from Aug. 30 through Nov. 8 could potentially have been exposed.

As is always the case when a TB case pops up, public health investigators have already identified and contacted those who are closest to the individual and thus at an elevated risk.

Margaret Chantung, the university’s chief communications officer, said in an email that “a small number of students and employees who were potentially exposed were contacted by the county with the request to be tested for the low risk of tuberculosis exposure. The county estimated the number at less than 100.

Public notices like the one issued Wednesday generally are made out of an abundance of caution in situations where it is difficult or impossible to identify all potential exposures with certainty.

Tuberculosis symptoms include persistent cough, fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss. Those infected, noted Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, “do not get sick right away.”

Blood and skin tests can be used to confirm an infection, and initial screening tests are scheduled for next week. Faculty and staff can be tested through the university’s occupational health services clinic while students will be tested by student health services.

Antibiotics, generally taken over a course that lasts for months, are the main treatment for those who test positive. Left untreated, tuberculosis can be fatal.

California State University San Marcos requires a negative TB screening test for all students before admission.

County records indicate that there have been 150 tuberculosis cases reported across the region through October with 201 in 2021 and 192 in 2020. An estimated 175,000 local residents are estimated to have latent infections, though the bacteria that causes the disease may remain inactive for years before beginning to cause symptoms.

For more information, call the county TB Control Program at (619) 692-8621.

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