Students and staff returning to the University of Sussex after the Easter vacation have been reassured that there is no cause for concern, following the discovery of tuberculosis (TB) on campus over the past few years. Four students are said to have contracted the potentially deadly disease, with two of the confirmed cases from the engineering department.

TB is a disease caused by infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and usually affects the lungs but can be found in other parts of the body.

It develops slowly in the body, and it can take months for symptoms to show.

A letter from Dr Angela Iversen, of the Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) Surrey and Sussex Health Protection Unit, was circulated among GPs across Brighton & Hove.

It said that the plan is to T-spot all undergraduates in the engineering department as soon as possible following the start of the summerterm.

T-spot screenings find the presence of disease in the body, and have proven particularly effective at diagnosing a latent TB infection and the TB disease. The results can be available as early as the following day.

The HPA is in contact with the university, which has been co-operating fully with the organisation and the local NHS. Claire Powrie, Director of Student Services, said: “On the basis of the advice we have from the medical professionals, I can reassure all students and staff at Sussex that there is no cause for alarm. Nor is there any need for individual students and staff to seek medical advice.

“The HPA tell us that they are now undertaking detailed work to ascertain if further screening is needed and taking time to identify anybody who needs to be screened. They have told us that there is no need for mass screenings of students and staff. If any screening is required it will be closely targeted.”

TB is a preventable and curable condition, but should not be left untreated. It is usually transmitted when a person with the infection has prolonged close contact with others.

The infection is contagious until approximately two weeks after treatment has started, and is treated with a number of antibiotics across a period of six months.

An HPA spokeswoman said: “We are working with the local TB service which is investigating any possible links between the cases. The cases were all treated individually and received appropriate antibiotic treatment.”

Symptoms can include fever and night sweats, a persistent cough, weight loss or blood in the saliva.

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