Frequently Asked Questions About Tuberculosis

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a highly curable and preventable bacterial disease caused by a germ breathed into the lungs. Tuberculosis is spread through the air, via repeated exposure to an active TB carrier's coughing and sneezing.

What are the symptoms of tuberculosis?

The most common symptoms of tuberculosis disease are prolonged coughing, fever, weight loss, night sweats and severe fatigue.

Once a case of tuberculosis was identified at Westminster, how did you decide who to screen for tuberculosis exposure?

Although tuberculosis is an infectious disease, the possibility of spreading it through casual contact is low.
Westminster College is following the testing protocols of the Callaway County Health Department, which will recommend testing of the infected person's close contacts. We ask for your patience as we continue to hear from the Health Department's investigation regarding the most appropriate individuals to test.

I haven't been told that I should be tested. Should I get tested on my own?

We encourage potential close contacts to wait for official Health Department testing, as the Health Department has had previous expertise in similar college situations. We will provide updates as we obtain more specific information from the Health Department.

How is tuberculosis diagnosed?

A skin test, known as a TST test, can detect latent tuberculosis. A chest x-ray is needed to diagnose active TB. Thus, a positive skin test does not necessarily indicate active TB. (It can indicate exposure to TB or a previous TB vaccination.) If you get a positive TST test, you need to have a chest x-ray to exclude the possibility of active tuberculosis.

Could I become infected by being around someone who was in contact with the infected person?

It is highly unlikely. Tuberculosis can be spread only through close contact with someone who has active TB disease.