Arkansas: Rule Would Require TB Test for Foreign College Students
May 19, 2003
The Arkansas Health Department is proposing a new regulation that would require foreign students to submit to TB screening when they enroll for college in Arkansas. "They come from all over the world, in some places where TB is a problem. As they come here to be students, they bring that problem with them," Dr. Joe Bates, the department's deputy state health officer, told a joint meeting of the House and Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor committees Thursday.Adapted from:
The Health Department's proposal would require students born outside the United States and Canada to undergo a TB skin test, and anyone who tested positive would be required to submit to a follow-up chest X-ray. If approved by the Arkansas Board of Health and signed by Gov. Mike Huckabee, the regulation for the first year would apply only to foreign students enrolling in state colleges for the first time and would go into effect this fall. After the first year, all foreign students would be subject to the mandatory testing.
About 2,500 foreign students are registered at Arkansas universities and colleges. According to Bates, some have had active TB when they enrolled and other students were infected because it was not discovered promptly. "This regulation is intended to help us discover them as they matriculate and control that situation if they happen to have it," said Bates.
In 1997, 122 students at the University of Arkansas were tested for TB after two international students were found to be infected. A student from India died from the disease. "He died because he was only found out about when he was essentially at death's door when he finally asked for medical attention," Bates said Thursday.
Some civil libertarians are questioning the proposal, however. "The idea of forced medical tests and screens does raise constitutional issues," said Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in the state. She said the ACLU would have to examine the proposed regulation and its possible legal ramifications further before giving a more definitive response.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.