Recent reports of tuberculosis cases in a local high school dredged up memories of a time this disease paid a visit to the college I attended …

Word spread through the hallways of the dorm: “Lacy’s sick, and she won’t be back for a while.”

We assumed that our friend, who’d gone home for a few days, had the flu or a stomach bug.

But Lacy, who lived directly across the hall from me during our senior year at Mississippi University for Women, didn’t return very quickly – in fact, it was weeks before we saw her again.

Diagnosed with active tuberculosis, Lacy was sent to Memphis to recuperate at a hospital, isolated from friends and family during what should have been one of the best times of her life. TB took its toll on Lacy – and on the people around her.

Those of us who lived in close proximity found ourselves at the county health department on a regular basis – for TB skin tests and chest x-rays. Like many young people in the U.S., I’d taken my health for granted, and, all of a sudden, I realized I was vulnerable. Luckily, no one else developed active TB, and Lacy eventually returned – to school and to good health.

While I’d had brushes with common childhood infectious diseases – chicken pox, for example – it was my first introduction to a major infectious disease and the far-reaching impact it had. It was a wake-up call for me.

Years later, I moved to Washington state and my interest in global health was born, here in city that leads the field. For more than a dozen years, I’ve worked in the arena of infectious diseases, communicating the urgent need for new solutions. My eye-opening brush with TB is a story I sometimes share as we tour visitors through IDRI’s labs, discussing our work to develop new drugs and vaccines to combat tuberculosis.

It’s a good reminder that infectious diseases are always among us, waiting for an opportunity. Just look at Mount Rainier High School.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’off’]https://www.idri.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Lee-cropped.tif[/author_image] [author_info]Posted by Lee Schoentrup, Communications Director
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