Emory custodian dies of TB

by: Diana Davis Updated:

DECATUR, Ga.,None - More than 400 people at Emory University were tested for tuberculosis after a school custodian died earlier this month. The school also sent out warning letters to everyone on campus.

The custodian cleaned about nine buildings on the Emory campus, but none of them were student dorms. He died Feb. 2.

Emory sent out the letters to students, faculty and staff Feb. 22, soon after school officials said they learned the cause of the man’s death from the DeKalb County Medical Examiner. Emory said the man did not know he had TB and had not seen a doctor.

“His family was not aware. He was not aware and co-workers were not aware,” Emory University Student Health Services Director Dr. Michael Huey told Channel 2’s Diana Davis.

He said the custodian’s contact with students was minimal because he had spent recent months working as a night shift supervisor.

“For members of the general student body, their risk of having been substantially exposed to this employee would be very low,” said Huey.

Tuberculosis is spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. Though it is contagious, it’s not as easy to contract as the flu, Emory doctors said.

“If you are next to the person for six to eight hours, you are very unlikely to acquire it even if you are sitting next to them,” Emory infectious disease specialist Dr. Bruce Ribner said.

If any of the school’s tuberculosis test results are positive, they will be followed up with chest X-rays. Antibiotics are given to prevent the disease from developing in anyone with a positive X-ray.

Emory emphasizes that most of those at campus are at low risk for getting sick now or later down the road. For those who had prolonged close contact, it could be a different story.
“So, that would be close co-workers, family members and anyone who might have been involved in his health care,” Ribner said.