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Tuberculosis remains as a Serious Public Health Concern

TB Day is one of eight World Health Organization recognized observances
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By Doug Hogan & Beth Fisher
News from KY Cabinet for Health & Human Services

FRANKFORT, KY (24 Mar 2017) - 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), a part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, is reminding Kentuckians that todaym Friday, March 24, 2017, is World TB Day.

This year's theme from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is "Unite to End TB" to emphasize the partnership between various organizations to eliminate TB. To show his support, Governor Matthew Bevin has declared March 2017 as "TB Awareness Month".

"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 DPH Commissioner Hiram C. Polk, Jr., M.D. "While public health has made great strides in preventing the spread of the disease, we are especially concerned with the recent emergence of multi-drug resistant TB. 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 to or contracts TB."

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. World TB Day is one of eight globally recognized public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO).

TB is a potentially fatal disease that usually attacks the lungs but can attack any part of the body, for example, the kidneys, spine or brain. The disease is commonly diagnosed in Kentucky, the United States and all over the world.

In fact, the CDC estimates that in 2015, 10.4 million people developed TB and 1.8 million died from the disease. The overall number of TB cases in the United States increased over the previous year in 2015 after having declined yearly during 1993-2014. Despite a slight increase in case count, the TB incidence rate per 100,000 persons has remained relatively stable at approximately 3.0 since 2013. However, the reporting of multidrug resistant TB, which is much more difficult to treat and much more expensive to treat, is a chief concern.

"TB remains a public health burden despite significant progress toward elimination," said Dr. Polk. "In Kentucky, surveillance data show that 91 TB cases were reported in 2016, but seven multi-drug resistant cases were reported in the last six years. These TB cases in Kentucky further emphasize the need for continued outreach and education."

TB is a disease that is transmitted person to person through the air when an infectious person coughs, shouts, sneezes, speaks or sings. Symptoms of TB include a cough lasting more than three weeks, fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, coughing up blood, loss of appetite, chest pain, and fatigue. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. People who are at high risk for becoming infected with TB after an exposure include close contacts of a person with TB; people with poor access to healthcare, such as those who are homeless; people who live or work in high-risk congregate settings (i.e., homeless shelters, nursing homes, or prisons); intravenous drug users; healthcare workers; infants, children and adolescents exposed to high-risk adults; and people from foreign countries where TB is common. People with TB infection are not contagious to others unless their infection progresses over time, and they develop active TB disease.

Risk factors for progression of TB infection to active TB include HIV infection, new TB infection in the last two years, diabetes, immunosuppression, and age, especially children younger than four years old. People with active TB are usually infectious and can give the disease to other people.

More information about TB as well as Kentucky's efforts to track and prevent the spread of the disease can be found at

This story was posted on 2017-03-24 05:10:20
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