State testing for tuberculosis at 2 sites in Vicksburg

Published 5:22 pm Friday, February 23, 2007

Health Department officials began testing patients at a Vicksburg hospital Wednesday after a report of tuberculosis.

In addition to patients at River Region Hospital, about 60 students and two employees at Hinds Community College in Vicksburg also will be tested next week after exposure to a student who had the disease.

It is not clear if the same tuberculosis victim is responsible for the contact at both sites.

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The exposure of others at the hospital was limited and the risk for spread is considered extremely low, regional health officer Dr. Mary Gayle Armstrong said.

“We have become aware that there was a person with TB who was at the hospital,” she told “The Mississippi Department of Health responds to all possible exposures, and this response by MDH includes learning more about the person who is ill so that any and all possible contacts, even low-risk contacts, are provided an opportunity for testing.”

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection found most often in the lungs that can spread to other parts of the body. Exposure to the bacteria doesn’t always result in illness. The disease can remain dormant, causing no symptoms, but develop into active tuberculosis if the immune system weakens through illness, age or other causes.

About 1,000 students attend classes at Hinds’ Vicksburg-Warren campus. But state officials tried to head off fears that a large number of people came in contact with the disease.

“The Health Department has assured college officials that there is minimal risk and that direct, extended contact was limited to a small number of individuals,” said Colleen Hartfield, vice president for community relations at Hinds.

Health officials have identified those who may have been exposed, even briefly. All were notified that they needed to be tested.

The hospital case is the second reported in the state this year. Tests of every student at Blackburn Middle School in Jackson several weeks ago showed no signs the disease had spread after a parent reported a sick child.