March 24, 2009

News Release

For Immediate Release

World TB Day Highlights Effort Against Disease

Each March 24, the world stops to observe the day that Robert Koch discovered the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). Worldwide, TB continues to be one of the leading causes of death, but here in the United States TB cases are at an all-time low, thanks to aggressive actions in the last decade to control the spread of TB.

Despite that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that TB continues to disproportionately affect foreign born persons and racial and ethnic minorities.

“We are making a concerted effort to help these and other high risk populations get tested and treated quickly (if needed) to protect their health and the health of our community” says Kendra Williams, Administrator of Community Health and Epidemiology.

In Greene County two new cases of active TB were diagnosed in 2008, and the health department’s TB clinic treated 112 clients for Latent Tuberculosis Infection (which means they have TB infection, but the bacteria are inactive). Because these people could become sick later with active TB, they are given medications for nine months.

The health department also administered 2,146 skin tests. Although routine skin testing for the general public is not recommended, the health department does recommend regular testing for high risk groups, such as people who are in close personal contact with a person who has TB, health care workers, intravenous drug users, people who are HIV positive, people who live in close quarters with others (such as in a correctional facility, nursing home, dormitory or shelter), and people who were born in a country where active TB is common.

“We focus a great deal of time and effort on treating latent cases so that they won’t become active,” adds Williams. “If we can prevent these cases from becoming active and contagious, we can stop the spread of TB in our community and protect public health.”

Tuberculosis is spread from person to person when a person with active TB coughs or sneezes and generally requires repeated or prolonged contact with the individual. People nearby may breathe in TB bacteria, which settles in their lungs. Some people’s bodies are able to fight the bacteria and keep it from growing (latent TB). They don’t feel sick and can’t spread TB to others, but if they don’t receive treatment, they may get sick from TB later. Other people’s bodies are unable to stop the TB bacteria from growing, and they develop active TB. This is usually people with weaker immune systems, such as children, senior adults and people with certain medical conditions.

Symptoms of active TB differ depending on where in the body the bacteria are located. If they are the lungs, a person might develop a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer with or without coughing up blood, chest pain, chills, fever, night sweats, weight loss, or tiredness.

TB can almost always be cured with medicine, which is provided at no cost under supervision by health department medical staff.

For more information, contact: Jaci McReynolds, Public Information Administrator, (417) 874-1205 office; (417) 830-9511 cell 

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417-864-1658 • health.springfieldmo.gov