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Mizzou

A student at the University of Missouri-Columbia has active tuberculosis and possibly has infected others, school officials announced Monday.

School officials are investigating the case with the Boone County health department to determine whether other students and staff might need testing. The sickened student left campus voluntarily, officials said.

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that can spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The bacteria usually infect the lungs but can also reach the kidneys, spine and brain. In most people, the immune system keeps the bacteria in check without symptoms (latent infection). If the disease activates, it usually can be treated and cured.

There have been six cases of active tuberculosis in Missouri in 2019. About 3,000 people in the state have latent tuberculosis cases, and an average of 100 additional active infections are recorded each year. Illinois reported 337 active tuberculosis cases in 2017, the latest figures available.

Only people with active infections can spread the disease to family members and others in close contact.

Worldwide, tuberculosis kills nearly 2 million people every year. Even in the U.S., where the disease is thought to be under control, tuberculosis infects more than 9,000 people a year.

The disease has persisted in part because of the lack of an effective vaccine. Plus, if people don’t have access to treatment or don’t complete the six- to nine-month drug regimen, the bacteria can become antibiotic-resistant.

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Blythe Bernhard is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.