University Health Services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison confirmed a student in Smith Residence Hall during Fall 2023 had an active case of tuberculosis in a recent email to residents.
Smith residents received an email Feb. 1 from Jake Baggott, UW-Madison chief health officer, and Andrew O’Donnell, UHS interim director of health services, urging them to get tested for tuberculosis. The email said there is “no cause for immediate concern.”
The student with active tuberculosis had not been on campus since December, according to comments UHS spokesperson Sarah Clifford Glapa made to the Wisconsin State Journal.
UHS and campus public health officials are offering free tuberculosis tests on Feb. 12 and Feb. 20 for students that may have been exposed. Test results are most accurate 8-10 weeks after initial exposure, per the email sent to students.
Tuberculosis is a rare but serious bacterial infection of the lungs that can spread to other parts of the body and be spread by coughing or sneezing. In 2022, Wisconsin reported 52 cases of active tuberculosis while Dane County had 10 active and 464 latent tuberculosis cases in 2023.
Tuberculosis is treated with a course of antibiotics. Latent tuberculosis — tuberculosis without symptoms — could become active if not treated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates a 1 in 10 chance of latent tuberculosis infections leading to future disease.
Students presenting symptoms, including a cough lasting more than three weeks, coughing up blood, fever, chills, night sweats, fatigue or unexplained weight loss, were instructed to call UHS as soon as possible.
The email directed students who have received the BCG tuberculosis vaccine, have ever tested positive for tuberculosis or have a weakened immune system to speak to a nurse at UHS.