The Colorado Springs community of U.S is waiting with bated breath. They await results of tests conducted to see if any person has contracted TB from a young nurse who died suddenly from the disease.
According to health officials, tuberculosis has been found responsible for the untimely death of Kalpana Dangol, a young Nepalese student at Colorado Springs University (CSU) at Pueblo.
According to Dr. Ned Calonge, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the woman, whom he refused to identify at that time, was from "a country where tuberculosis was endemic" and probably contracted it there before coming to the U.S. Calonge said she had not traveled out of the country since February.
"This person could have had latent TB for years," Calonge opines.
The only way health officials will know whether she had the drug- resistant form of TB, Calonge says, is if someone with whom she was in contact comes down with that strain of the disease. According to him, doctors cannot test for it once a patient has died.
Currently, CSU is using the woman's class schedule to contact her teachers and fellow students.
Dangol was brought to the emergency room of Colorado Springs' Memorial Hospital last Friday morning complaining of abdominal pain. She died that afternoon.
When physicians learned of her symptoms, she was immediately moved to an isolation room, where the airflow was restricted, so it would not reach other people in the hospital. Staff members and the woman's family wore protective gear.
Calonge says Colorado has about 120 cases of TB annually, and about five to 10 victims die per year, usually from a depressed immune system and not from TB alone.
People who were possibly exposed to Kalpana Dangol will be given skin tests to see if they have been infected. TB is detectable eight to 10 weeks after exposure.
Even if a test result is negative, the person may need to be retested in a few weeks, and anyone who tests positive will need a chest X-ray and exam to determine if the disease is latent or active.
Health officials are working overtime to notify individuals who might have had contact with the 19-year-old nurse. They are also responding to a lot of panic and paranoia in the community and have been inundated with phone calls.