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Many of us have followed media reports about some cases of tuberculosis at Université de Montréal. It seems that the matter is closer to McGill than we first thought, because a student suffering from a contagious form of TB was taking one course at McGill during the fall of 2001.
The matter came to light in early April, and the Direction de la santé publique de la Régie régionale de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal-Centre is monitoring the situation. All students enrolled in the course in question, which was offered through the Department of Art History and Communication Studies, have been invited to undergo a simple skin test aimed at determining if they have been infected with TB.
The situation at McGill
Students are notoriously nomadic, and it is difficult to reach them all at the addresses contained in University records. As a result, a new message from the Dean of Students will be distributed to all students of the Department of Art History this week, using e-mail addresses. Only those who were in contact with the student suffering from the infectious form of TB are at risk of infection. Because of privacy concerns, the University does not know who the student is.
Dr. Pierre Tellier, Medical Director at the Student Health Services, says that, "There have been no reported cases of infectious TB at McGill. There is no reason to believe that the disease has spread widely, but the fact that there are reported cases of non-infectious TB at McGill and Université de Montréal shows how important it is for people who may have been in contact with the student who was contagious to get themselves tested."
Exceptionally, and to better respond to the needs of the McGill community, anyone who has questions or concerns can call Student Health Services at 398-6017. Staff nurses will be able to answer questions and skin tests will be available. TB tests are also available from your personal physician and your local CLSC.
What is TB and how is it diagnosed?
TB is a bacterial infection, easily treatable with antibiotics. The most common site of infection is the lungs. It is also the most infectious, because the bacteria are transmitted via droplets of saliva when the person who is ill coughs.
TB is first identified through a simple skin test for antibodies, which indicates if a person may be infected. A positive test indicates that the person was in contact with a person with TB and may be infected. A chest x-ray is then performed to detect the presence of an active infection in the lungs. If the x-ray is positive, the person is considered infected with TB.
If the skin test is positive but the chest x-ray is negative, the person is considered to be infected, but not infectious. That means that the person will not spread the disease to others. However, preventive antibiotic treatment is recommended.
If both the skin test and the chest x-ray are positive, the person is considered to have developed TB and is potentially infectious. This means that the person may spread the disease. Antibiotic treatment for a period of six months to one year is mandatory.
Bruce Shore, Dean of Students is monitoring the situation closely, and there are daily contacts between Dr. Tellier and the Direction de la santé publique.