COD students warned of TB exposure

POSTED: 05:09 PM PDT Mar 15, 2013    UPDATED: 05:38 PM PDT Mar 15, 2013 
PALM DESERT, Calif. -

College of the Desert notified students that one of their own has come down with an active case of tuberculosis.  The individual is expected to recover, but other students and staff at COD may have been exposed.  While the chance is slim,  the college says they are still taking precautions.

Dr. Mohammad Alkhatib specializes in infectious diseases at JFK Memorial Hospital. "It can be fatal that is how dangerous it is," said Alkhatib.

Tuberculosis once killed millions but now is very rare in the US.

"Usually people with normal immunity do not get TB, not unless they are exposed to someone with active TB, but it's not that common," said Alkhatib.

In fact only 8 cases have been reported in Riverside County this year.  This is the first involving someone at a school.

Friday, students opened their in boxes to find an email notifying them of the case.

"The email did state that I wasn't directly in contacted with TB so but it was still nerve racking, but it was nice to know that they at least wanted to inform the students," said Britteny Hernandez, a student.

COD says the person infected hasn't been on campus since last week and is getting treatment, but others could have been exposed.

"Anybody who is in close contact with that person should be tested for TB," said Alkhatib.

The Riverside County Health Department has notified the people who have been potentially exposed, and COD is offering free TB testing.

Pam Hunter, COD spokesperson, says, "We are doing everything we can to make that easy for folks."

Students we talked with are still uneasy.

"You usually think that there is diseases out there, but I never think it could be in the actual school that you attend every day.  Not only do I attend, but my son attends here too," said Hernandez.

TB testing is required for students going into kindergarten all the way through 12th grade, but when you get to college it's not required by the state.  COD says that's because its not necessary.

"TB is such a has been eradicated to such a great degree that it is not a concern," said Hunter.

Dr. Alkhatib says even all of the international tourists that visit the Valley don't put us at a higher risk.

"Usually you don't get TB by getting exposed to someone for five to ten minutes or two hours, you need exposure of 8 hours or more, so it does not affect you that fast," said Alkhatib.

Anyone with questions can contact the Riverside County Health Department or the COD's Health Center.