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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Slow communication from UH presents health risks to students

When diseases like tuberculosis appear on campus, there needs to be clear and efficient communication between the University and student body. Delaying the spread of information puts students at risk of getting the disease due to ignorance of the situation. | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/user: Magnus Manske


Last week,  a member of UH involved in the Fine Arts Building was confirmed to have tested positive for tuberculosis. University officials have been slow to establish a communication channel with students and faculty regarding the case.

University authorities have been following the case closely under protocol outlined by the City of Houston. The University handled the case by contacting individuals who had extended contact with the individual first before informing the rest of the students and staff.

Although this is a good rationale to prevent panic, it is essential for UH authorities to inform the campus community about important and rare health concerns sooner.

Despite handling the case according to the proper guidelines, this doesn’t counterbalance the fact that UH needs a better communication system. The threat of disease on campus merits a stricter, more streamlined communication process that informs students and staff about potential threats in a quick, efficient manner.

It is reasonable for the University to wait for confirmation of a positive tuberculosis diagnosis from the individual affected, but there should be faster communication channels and more resources so students can understand how tuberculosis spreads.

“Tuberculosis is a very ubiquitous disease. It is all over the world, although it is less common today in developed countries than during the Industrial Revolution,” said professor of biology and biochemistry and NSM Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Anne Delcour, who teaches a class on infectious diseases.

TB is a contagious bacterial infection that can be fatal if it is left to spread and not caught and isolated.

Infected people can sometimes go into what is called latent TB, where your immune system has contained the bacteria but you do not show any symptoms, said Delcour.

“When people have the active form of TB and they are infectious, then they can spread the disease to other people,” Delcour said.

A slow communication response can put students with other health problems that result in immunosuppressive effects on their immune system at risk.

It is important to have good communication between students and the University for this reason. It is not only important for the health of students and staff, but it could lead to faster reaction times that would put less people at risk, especially individuals with medical problems that lead to weaker immune systems.

We need to make it easier and faster for students and faculty to be kept up to date on what is happening on campus, especially if it is something as serious as an infectious disease.

The City of Houston sent the City of Houston Health Department officials to speak to UH students and employees about tuberculosis and answer any questions. This attempt to keep students informed was inefficient, however, as many students’ busy schedules did not allow them to take advantage of this resource.

It is not an issue of increasing panic or fear of catching a disease. It’s an issue of communication. Students bombarded with hundreds of emails a day might not see the email, needlessly putting their health at risk.

Transparent communication needs to be a priority for any other infectious disease responses. For a more robust communication strategy, the University needs to react faster and raise awareness of the issue and its potential consequences because students and faculty have a right to know what is going on in their community.

Transparent communication should be a priority for any future disease and other emergency responses. The University needs to react faster, raising awareness of the issue and its potential consequences for those at the University. Students and staff have a right to know what is going on in their community.

Opinion columnist Janet Miranda is a marketing junior and can be reached at [email protected].



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