The state Department of Health is urging tests for about 215 Kapiolani Community College and Hawaii Pacific University students and faculty who might have been exposed to a student who contracted in early February an active infectious tuberculosis, a potentially fatal but curable airborne disease.
The student, 23, who attended KCC in the fall and HPU in the spring, was cleared of TB at the time of enrollment at bothschools, health officials said.
The department has notified all students, faculty and staff at the schools but urges testing only for the 95 faculty and students at KCC, and 120 at HPU, who shared a classroom with the student. It will hold free screening at KCC this week and at HPU the week of April 2.
The student had left school and was hospitalized by early February.
The hospital notified the department in mid-February. The student was transferred to another facility for treatment within the last two weeks, and has since been discharged and is doing well.
The student had a latent form of the disease, probably for many years, which progressed to active tuberculosis, said Dr. Richard Brostrom, Health Department Tuberculosis Control Branch chief.
The department cited privacy laws for not providing other details about the student, including country of origin, gender and place of residence.
TB symptoms include coughing sometimes accompanied by blood, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, night sweats and recurring fevers.
The bacteria, which usually attacks the lungs, is transferred by coughs or sneezes. But it is not spread by sharing a drinking glass, food, handshakes or toilets.
Hawaii, with a 10-year average of 121 cases for every 100,000 people, has the highest incidence of tuberculosis in the United States, with an annual average of nine cases per 100,000.
Hawaii has about 50 current cases of active tuberculosis, but only about 10 remain infectious. In 2011 there were 123 active cases statewide, and an all-time low of 114 in 2010.
Brostrom said, "Because Hawaii is a Pacific crossroads (where travelers come from Pacific island nations with high rates), we do continue to see a steady rate of tuberculosis in Hawaii despite our best efforts to improve tuberculosis control here."