Health and Family Services Cabinet
March 24 Is World TB Day
Disease Remains Serious Public Health Concern
As part of its ongoing work to educate the public about tuberculosis (TB) and prevent the spread of the disease, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is reminding the state that March 24, 2012 is World TB Day.
The observance was created to commemorate the date in 1882 when Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB. Among infectious diseases caused by a single agent or pathogen, TB remains the second leading cause of death in adults worldwide second only to HIV-AIDS.
“Many people assume that TB is no longer a concern in this country, but we continue to see cases each year – in Kentucky and around the U.S.,” said Acting DPH Commissioner Steve Davis, M.D. “While public health has made great strides in preventing the spread of the disease, our work continues. We hope everyone will take the opportunity on World TB Day to learn more about TB, particularly how it is spread and how it can be treated if someone is exposed or contracts TB.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates worldwide approximately 2 million people die each year from TB. It is estimated that one third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
TB is a disease that is transmitted person to person through the air, when an infectious person coughs, shouts, sneezes, speaks or sings. It usually affects the lungs, but can attack any part of the body including the kidney, spine and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.
If people are exposed to TB, they can develop latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). People with LTBI have no symptoms and cannot spread the infection to other people. People who are at high risk for becoming infected with TB include: close contacts of a person with TB disease; people with poor access to healthcare (homeless); people who live or work in high-risk congregate settings (i.e. homeless shelters, nursing homes); intravenous drug users, healthcare workers; infants, children and adolescents exposed to high-risk adults; and people from foreign countries where TB is common.
Some people with LTBI progress to TB disease. People with TB disease are infectious and can give the infection to other people. Symptoms of TB disease include a cough lasting greater than three weeks, fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, coughing up blood, loss of appetite, chest pain and fatigue. Risk factors for progression to active TB include HIV infection, new TB infection in the last two years, diabetes, immunosuppression, and age (e.g., children younger than 4 years old).
Tuberculosis continues to be a public health concern even though Kentucky continues to rank below the national TB case rate of 3.6 cases per 100,000 population. For 2011, 71 active TB cases were identified in Kentucky. Challenges for TB control in Kentucky include drug resistant TB that is difficult and costly to treat. The Kentucky TB Prevention and Control Program, along with local public health departments, work toward the elimination of TB through education and training of healthcare providers, identification of high-risk populations, continued TB surveillance, and treatment for both active TB cases and persons with LTBI.