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A patient in the Three Rivers Public Health jurisdiction who tested positive for tuberculosis has died.

The patient was evaluated and treated on Oct. 29 at Fremont Health and transferred from there to Nebraska Medicine the same day. The patient died Friday, said Terra Uhing, executive director of the Three Rivers Health Department.

Three Rivers is comprised of Dodge, Saunders and Washington counties. No details about the patient or that individual’s age is being released at this time.

After being notified of the situation, the health department immediately launched a plan to assess and, if needed, treat anyone exposed to this patient in the Three Rivers jurisdiction.

“Our goal is to let the residents of our health department’s jurisdiction know that safety is our No. 1 priority and we are working with our partners at the state health department in carrying out this active investigation,” Uhing said.

“We’re interviewing family and community members to identify any setting where other individuals might have been exposed to this patient. We’re taking all the necessary steps to make sure people identified at risk for exposure are evaluated.

“I want to assure everybody, we are on top of this investigation.”

Tuberculosis is an infection of the lungs which results in a cough and sputum production.

People exposed to and infected with tuberculosis generally have a prolonged incubation period.

Patients who become infected most often take weeks to months to develop symptoms.

Risk of infection is related with close proximity in a confined space for a prolonged period of time with a person whose sputum is positive for tuberculosis.

The shorter the time of exposure and the greater the distance from the infected person lessens the risk of transmission.

Symptoms for at-risk patients can include a bad cough, especially coughing up blood or sputum, pain in the chest and fatigue.

Those at risk with symptoms should contact the health department or their health care provider.

Incidents of tuberculosis have dramatically decreased in the past few decades through aggressive TB control programs based on screenings and antibiotic coverage.

The public health system has established protocols for assessment, testing and treatment.

This approach is based on identifying anyone exposed to the infected patient, followed by a tuberculosis screening test.

Public health recommends the screening test to individuals who are believed to have an exposure to this patient.

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Individuals whose initial screening test is positive must be evaluated by a physician and will most likely be placed on an antibiotic.

If the first screening test is negative, a second test is needed six weeks later to see if a “conversion” from negative to positive has occurred.

Those whose screening test has changed from negative to positive must be evaluated by a physician and will most likely be placed on an antibiotic.

Three Rivers Public Health Department will arrange for evaluation and screening tests.

Health care providers can refer patients with concerns to the local health department clinic or contact the local health department with questions about this situation.

There remains much to learn about the places the patient visited and circumstances surrounding this individual.

Public health officials will ensure that those exposed will be properly evaluated and treated and continue to provide details of findings and plans as new information becomes available, Three Rivers said in a prepared statement.

Three Rivers Public Health Department staff are available to answer questions and may be reached at 402-727-5396.

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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