by Kent Morrison

Students at and faculty at University of Regina have been holding their breath since earlier this month when it was announced that a student at the school was being treated with what has been now diagnosed as Tuberculosis.

On March 9, the university was contacted by Tuberculosis Control Saskatchewan. They were informed by TCS that a male student, who cannot be named due to privacy issues, was under care in a Regina hospital and being tested for the disease.

 “Obviously our first concern was to make sure the student was doing O.K.,” said Barb Pollock, Vice-president of External Relations at the U of R. “We also worked closely with TB Control to follow up with students concerned with the spread of the disease.”

 Though Tuberculosis is an airborne disease, it can only be contracted during close contact. Since the student currently under evaluation lived in campus residence, his roommates as well as his classmates where briefed about the disease.  A team from TB control went to each of the students’ classes and talked directly to his classmates to discuss possible testing if they believe others may have been affected.

The school also issued a mass email to all students to inform them of the issue and also held an open information night for those who wished to express their concerns.

“It took about 10 days for the tests to come back positive,” said Pollock. “Now that it has been confirmed, we will help TB Control with any testing they need to do.” 

While university officials are confident that this is an isolated case, it has created quite a buzz with students on campus.

“Right after I heard I was pretty paranoid every time I heard someone cough,” sand Amy Antonini, an International Studies student.

Antonini shares a history class with the infected male and admits that it was not until the end of the presentation by Tuberculosis Control that students began to realize the context of the situation.

“There was whole bunch of people in the front of the room, but only one was talking,” said Antonini. “It wasn’t until someone asked if a person in our class had it, then people started to panic and ask a lot more questions.

“I did not even think that tuberculosis was even around anymore.”

The disease has a prominent history in Saskatchewan. During the early 20th century it was a leading killer and led to the creation of the Fort San Sanatorium. In 1948 doctors were able to find a vaccine that was supposed to kill the Tuberculosis virus and by the 1960’s most believed it to be gone. However, tuberculosis has made a resurgence in recent years.  Approximately 1,600 new cases are reported each year in Canada.

U of R officials have been in contact with TB Control and are encouraging those students who were visited last week to undergo precautionary tests.  While the test is optional for most students believed to be in contact with the infected male, university representatives hope that everyone will seek medical assistance. 

As outlined in a pamphlet handed out to at-risk students, Tuberculosis Control use a Mantoux test, which is administered by injecting a minute amount of the tuberculin virus into the skin. The results of the test determine whether the patient is carrying the virus or has carried it in the past.

People seeking more information are encouraged to call TB Control Saskatchewan at 1-866-780-6482 or visit health Canada.

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