A passenger on Northwest Airlines Corp. Flight 51 from Frankfurt to Detroit on March 10 was found to have tuberculosis, the airline said today.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is attempting to contact 17 passengers seated near the infected person, CDC spokeswoman Shelly Diaz said.

“The risk of TB transmission is very low,” she said.

The CDC is gathering passenger contact information and passing that along to state and local health departments to have people tested for the disease.

“Northwest has been proactively working with the CDC to contact passengers who may be at risk,” spokeswoman Leslie Parker said in a statement today. Passengers who have questions should contact the CDC or their local health department.

Tuberculosis is caused by the mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria and is spread through the air by those with an active form of the disease, according to the CDC Web site.

About a third of the world’s population is infected with the bacteria, according to the World Health Organization. Not everyone who is infected becomes sick. The U.S. had 13,299 cases of TB in 2007, a CDC spokeswoman said last week.