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Active case of tuberculosis confirmed at UMass Boston; officials working to reduce health risks

A view of buildings on the UMass Boston campus in 2014.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

An active case of tuberculosis has been confirmed at the University of Massachusetts Boston, officials said Monday.

In a message to the campus community, Robert Pomales, executive director of the university’s health services, said the person diagnosed with the illness was receiving treatment and “may have been infected with TB many years before developing [the] active TB infection.”

“Approximately 39 people on campus have been identified as potentially having close contact with the person with active TB,” Pomales wrote. “Those people have been contacted and informed about steps they can take to protect themselves. Appropriate testing and guidance is occurring.”

Pomales did not specify how the individual is connected to the university and said officials are working closely with the Boston Public Health Commission to minimize any health risks.

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“Although TB is a serious disease caused by a germ that is spread through the air, it is important to note that the general UMass Boston community is not at increased risk for getting a TB infection as a result of this case,” he said.

No other cases have been reported, a university spokesperson said

Tuberculosis bacteria spreads through the air when a person with the illness coughs, speaks, or sings, but not everyone infected with the bacteria becomes sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with a latent TB infection have no symptoms and cannot spread the bacteria to others, according to the CDC.

TB is not spread by shaking hands, sharing food or drinks, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes, or kissing, officials said.

“TB is not easily passed from person to person,” university officials said. “It takes repeated and prolonged exposure in an indoor space to become infected. Common symptoms of active TB include ongoing cough, fevers, chills, night sweats, and weight loss.”

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University health services routinely screens for risk factors for TB and tests incoming students who are considered at risk for both active and latent TB based on American College Health Association and CDC guidelines, officials said.

Members of the UMass Boston community who have questions or would like to speak with a healthcare provider can call University Health Services at 617-287-5660.



Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.