Contact: Christy Thompson, RN
Public Health Nurse
For Immediate Release
March 23, 2011
Contact: Christy Thompson, Public Health Nurse
Tomorrow is World TB Day
On the Move Against Tuberculosis
Tomorrow is World TB Day, an opportunity to build public awareness that tuberculosis remains an epidemic in much of the world. Worldwide, TB causes nearly 2 million deaths each year, mostly in developing countries.
World TB Day commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. TB has existed in the population for many years and has been found in prehistoric human remains from approximately 7000 BC. At the time of Koch's announcement, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch's discovery opened the way towards diagnosing and curing TB.
TB normally attacks the lungs, but can affect other areas of the body as well. It is spread from person to person through the air when individuals with active tuberculosis disease cough, sing, sneeze or talk. People nearby who breathe in the bacteria are at risk of becoming infected. Health officials say it is unclear why some people exposed to the TB bacteria become infected and others do not. Some people will contract the infection, but their immune system keeps the bacteria inactive, which is sometimes referred to as “sleeping”, “dormant” or “latent TB”.
People with latent TB do not feel sick, do not show symptoms and are not contagious. However, about 5-10 percent of people with latent TB will develop the active form of the disease at some point in their lives if they do not receive treatment. Active TB disease is when the bacteria "wakes up" and starts to multiply, which eventually causes the person to become sick. Once the disease becomes active, it can be spread to others.
Symptoms of active disease include: a cough lasting longer than 3 weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, chills, fever and night sweats. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention. TB disease can cause serious illness or death if it is not properly treated.
Treating TB is vital to stopping its spread. Health officials say those efforts must include identifying and treating people with the latent form of the disease before they become sick. It is also critical for patients with active and latent TB to be sure to take all medications as recommended by their health care provider.
The health department provides treatment to individuals with tuberculosis infection (latent TB) and to those with tuberculosis disease (active TB). After a patient is diagnosed with TB, a follow-up investigation is conducted to identify people who may have been exposed to someone with tuberculosis disease. Public health nurses meet with clients on a routine basis during treatment to ensure their medication is taken properly. Case management is available at no charge to those who have tuberculosis infection or disease.
For questions or more information on tuberculosis, please call Christy Thompson at 573-874-6319.