A Georgia Regents University graduate student has been diagnosed with tuberculosis and those who might have been exposed are being tested while local officials deal with the impact of a national shortage of TB testing products.
The student, who was not identified, is receiving standard treatment “and most patients experience a full recovery,” the university said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. While the Richmond County Health Department is testing those who had close contact with the student, “the likelihood of getting TB from exposure to this particular individual is very low,” the university said in its statement. Health department officials did not respond to several calls for comment.
The shortage of testing products does not appear to be affecting the testing at GRU, a spokeswoman said. But at the Richmond County Board of Health meeting on Tuesday, county nurse manager Carol Bryant said it has reduced TB testing to just contacts of suspected patients and they were no longer doing “walk-ins” who might need a negative test for a job or school.
Difficulties in manufacturing one of the products, called Tubersol, led to increased demand for the other product, Aplisol, according to a notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The original notice in April expected the shortage to be resolved in May but both products are still on a Food and Drug Administration shortage list.
Georgia county health departments were advised to continue testing contacts but if Aplisol is in short supply to defer those who need TB testing for employment and are not at risk for developing the disease, said Dr. Rose-Marie Sales, director of the TB Program for the Georgia Department of Public Health. She did a survey of health districts earlier this week “and most of them have not been experiencing a shortage so their public health practice hasn’t been impacted,” Sales said. “What they’re telling me is that some hospitals and private facilities like nursing homes, they’ve been reporting shortages.”
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and other state health agencies are restricted on how much testing they can order each month but also have a back-up supply to draw from and are following CDC guidelines for restrictions, spokesman Jim Beasley said in an email.
The CDC said earlier this month it expects the shortage to continue until mid-October, Sales said.
“Hopefully in one month it will be resolved,” she said.