For Immediate Release
July 30, 2009

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

KDHE Commends K-State on Effective TB Control Plan

Proposed legislation to require TB control plans at colleges

A Column by Jason Eberhart-Phillips, MD
Kansas State Health Officer and Director of Health
Kansas Department of Health and Environment

A recent case of tuberculosis (TB) in a student at Kansas State University – and the university’s rapid and effective response to the case – demonstrates the need for TB control plans and screening to be required at every university and college in Kansas. 

KSU has an effective TB control plan.  The successful execution of this plan resulted in the rapid identification of the case, and is likely instrumental in preventing further TB cases from occurring. KDHE, KSU and local health department officials are now working together to identify persons who might have had close contact with the student, and are following up with those individuals.

Senate Bill 62 (SB 62) was proposed by Senator Vickie Schmidt and supported by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) during the most recent legislative session.  The bill would require colleges and universities to develop and implement tuberculosis control plans and screening programs. The plans will include a system for evaluating students at greatest risk of having TB prior to entering the classroom.  KDHE would have the responsibility for ongoing monitoring of compliance with the plans, and advising institutions on developing them.

Although many higher learning institutions already have these efforts in place, making them mandatory could prevent many more cases of TB, while saving costs on treatment, lost wages and tuition. 

TB is an infectious disease that is spread when a person with active TB disease coughs or sneezes.  Extended close contact in a closed environment is the key to transmission of the disease, which occurs when a person inhales expelled particles into their lungs. TB can lie dormant indefinitely before symptoms become apparent. It is estimated that up to 10 percent of people infected with TB will actually develop the disease. Individuals with TB who are being properly treated can and usually do carry on normal lives during treatment. 

While TB rates in Kansas and the United States are very low, TB is still a significant public health challenge. In 2008, there were 57 active TB cases reported in Kansas.  With the right tools at its disposal, public health and higher education institutions can more successfully confront the challenge of TB.