HANOVER — A Dartmouth College student is being treated for active tuberculosis, which has prompted a state investigation into the possibility of more cases on campus.
Dr. Mark Reed, Dartmouth’s director of health services, sent an email to students, faculty and staff on Wednesday informing them about the contagious, airborne illness.
“The community member is receiving excellent medical treatment off campus,” Reed said in the email. “They will not be returning to Dartmouth until they are medically cleared by the state.”
School officials declined to say whether the affected person is a student, but New Hampshire’s state epidemiologist he or she is a student. Dr. Benjamin Chan was unable to say whether the student had contracted the illness out of state or in another country.
According to Chan, tuberculosis in New Hampshire is rare.
“We have between 10 and 20 people diagnosed with active tuberculosis per year,” he said.
State statistics show that most people who have the illness in New Hampshire come from another country. Between 2014 and 2018, the state reported 70 cases of tuberculosis, with 55 of those occurring in people born outside the United States, according to information compiled by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services.
Tuberculosis in active cases results in an infection in the lungs, which can lead to serious complications or death. Chan said the U.S. generally does not vaccinate for tuberculosis, since it is uncommon, Instead, U.S. medical practitioners use identification tools and antibiotics to keep the infection in check.
“There’s no immediate or significant risk to the public health,” Chan said.
Dr. Elizabeth Talbot, New Hampshire deputy state epidemiologist, and a team will be on campus this week to begin identifying people who might have been exposed to the illness and test them for signs of tuberculosis, Chan said.
People who have been exposed to tuberculosis but who have not become ill are considered to have a latent case of tuberculosis, Chan said. People with latent tuberculosis are administered a regime of antibiotics to knock the bacteria out, he said, and prevent an active case of the illness.