ORONO, Maine — University of Maine and state public health officials are investigating a case of tuberculosis in a student at the Orono campus.
Dr. Dora Ann Mills, head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday there is no need for the university community to be overly concerned about the situation.
“This is a routine investigation,” she said. The infected student has been started on antibiotics and the risk of transmission is small, Mills said.
The Maine CDC and university health officials are working together to identify “close contacts” of the infected student. In this situation, that would include close friends, household members and possibly sports teammates, Mills said, but not casual acquaintances or classmates. Close contacts will be contacted by e-mail and then by a written letter and asked to be tested for exposure to the tuberculosis bacterium. They first will be screened using a common skin test; those who test positive will undergo follow-up testing and be started on medication if appropriate.
According to data posted on the Maine CDC Web site, there are a number of active tuberculosis cases reported each year in Maine. There were 19 cases in 2007, 16 in 2006 and 17 in 2005. The incidence of the disease is significantly lower in Maine than the national average.
Many more people test positive for exposure to TB without having symptoms or being infectious.
Those at increased risk of illness include people who travel to areas where tuberculosis is more prevalent, those who live in unsanitary conditions, health care workers and individuals whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV-AIDS or other diseases.