Prevention, early diagnosis and treatment can make the difference in health issues and keeping entire communities and families healthy.
This is the case with tuberculosis (TB), which is often considered a disease of the past, but remains a public health threat globally and a local health challenge. TB is one of the leading causes of death from infectious disease in the world with one-third of the world’s population currently infected with TB bacilli, the microbes that cause TB.
In 2011, 95 new cases of TB were reported to the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
“With increased global travel, public health officials must remain vigilant to watch for signs and symptoms of TB and get those infected into treatment as soon as possible,” said Dr. Phillip Lindsey of the OSDH Acute Disease Service.
Tuberculosis is spread from person to person when someone with TB coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings, propelling the TB bacteria into the air. People nearby may breathe in the bacteria and become infected. The symptoms of active TB can include cough, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.
Persons with TB of the lung often complain about a cough, chest pain or coughing up blood. Individuals experiencing these symptoms should contact their health care provider for evaluation.
A skin test is given to detect TB infection and if that test is positive, other tests are performed to determine if someone has the disease. Those with TB infection cannot spread the bacteria to others. However, those with the TB disease are contagious.
Persons diagnosed with active TB must comply with an intensive course of treatment for at least six months. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent further spread of infection and diminish the duration and extent of the disease. Oklahoma uses directly observed therapy (DOT), in which a health care provider is assigned to physically observe the patient take doses of TB medication. This helps the patient to effectively adhere to a treatment plan.
World TB Day is March 24, an observance that allows people all over the world to make an individual call to stop TB in their lifetimes by visiting www.mystoptb.org to make their own poster or upload a video with a personal message.
For more information on TB, contact the OSDH Acute Disease Service at (405) 271-4060, your local county health department or visit www.health.ok.gov and type “Tuberculosis” in the search box.