By Samantha Bartholomew
A Riverside City College student has reportedly tested positive for tuberculosis, according to the Riverside County Department of Public Health.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that can only be spread by several hours of close contact a day with someone who has it, health officials say. It can be fatal if not treated properly. Patients are usually treated for several months with antibiotics.
However, not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. People who are infected, but do not become sick, have what is called latent TB infection. People who have latent TB infection do not have any symptoms and cannot spread TB to others, but some people with latent TB infection can go on to get active TB disease.
The health department sent an email to all Riverside Community College District faculty about the issue May 14, informing the faculty that the college is aware that a student has tested positive for active tuberculosis.
Public health officials are in the process of assessing and notifying students, faculty and staff who have been possibly exposed.
Health and college officials met May 15 to discuss the plan of action on informing potentially exposed students and faculty. According to Jose Arballo, public information officer, the general procedure is to look at the student’s class schedule and notify all individuals that might have had close contact with the infected student.
Once notified, potentially exposed students were told to get tested. Testing has primarily been done through the Riverside County Public Health Department. However, the initial email states that RCC’s Student Health Services will also be available.
Irving Hendrick, interim RCC president, was unavailable for comment.
Students were notified the morning of May 15 with the same email sent to faculty the previous day.
A joint press release issued by health and school officials May 16 stated that more than 200 students and faculty may have been exposed to the illness. The college sent letters to notify potentially exposed students May 17, while staff members who may have been exposed have already received notification from the college.
However, the press release was never issued to students.
Affected students are being advised to be tested at a local community health clinic at no cost. However, those who have not received notification are not considered to be at risk for exposure and TB testing is not recommended.
“While the risk of infection is low, it’s important that those who are notified take the time to get tested,” Kaiser said in the press release. “If you do test positive, we can treat you promptly.”