KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON - Tuberculosis (TB) takes two million lives worldwide every year, and World TB Day on March 24 is an opportunity to focus on solutions to the devastating global epidemic. Locally, 161 cases were reported in 2007, a new 30-year high, serving as a stark reminder that TB also remains a significant challenge in King County.
Today's cases are increasingly among the foreign born. Also disproportionately represented are African Americans, Asian /Pacific Islanders, American Indian/Alaskan Natives, Latinos, the homeless and those living with HIV.
"King County is an important player in an increasingly interconnected world, but this also makes us more vulnerable to diseases like tuberculosis, more common in other countries than our own," said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health Seattle & King County.
"Given this challenge, our public health system does an excellent job of finding and treating those who are infected, to protect them and those around them," said Fleming.
In 2007 for King County:
- There were 161 cases of active TB, compared with 145 in 2006, representing a 30-year high. The last recent peak was in 2002 and 2003, with 158 and 155 cases, respectively.
- 76% of the infected individuals were born outside of the United States. The most common countries of origin were Vietnam, Somalia, Ethiopia, India and the Marshall Islands.
- Blacks or African Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Latinos continue to have disproportionately higher rates of TB.
- 12% of TB cases were resistant to at least one TB medication. There were two cases of multi-drug resistant TB, and no case of extreme drug-resistant TB.
- 6 % of TB cases were among HIV infected persons.
The TB Control Program in King County focuses on:
- case management of patients with active TB disease in order to assure the cure of all TB cases, stop further transmission of TB and prevent development of multi-drug resistant TB
- timely and thorough contact investigations around active TB cases to identify, evaluate and treat those who were exposed and/or recently infected
- collaborative efforts with a number of public health and community partners, particularly to enhance targeted TB testing and treatment of latent TB infection.
"TB is curable and preventable, but controlling TB is an ongoing challenge," said Dr. Masa Narita, TB Control Officer for Public Health Seattle & King County. "We have approximately 100,000 people living in our county with latent, or dormant, TB infection who are not contagious, but are potentially future active TB cases."
Globally, one third of the world's population has TB infection, and two million people a year die of the disease.
In recognition of World TB Day on March 24, a panel of tuberculosis research and healthcare experts, including a panelist from Public Health Seattle & King County, will lead an interactive discussion about the worldwide TB epidemic, the efforts to control its devastating impact and how individuals can get involved to help its eradication. The discussion is set for Town Hall Seattle, Eighth and Seneca, from 7:30-8:30 p.m., Monday, March 24. For more information, visit: www.sbri.org/news/2008/World_TB_Day.pdf
Background on TB
Tuberculosis, also called TB, is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium named Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB usually involves the lungs (pulmonary TB) but can infect almost any organ in the body. TB is almost always curable with antibiotics that are readily available in countries such as the United States.
People with active TB disease are made sick by bacteria that are active in their body. People with inactive, or latent, TB infection are not sick because the germ is inactive inside their body, and they cannot spread TB infection to others.
For more information on Public Health's TB Control Program and activities, visit: www.kingcounty.gov/health/tb
Providing effective and innovative health and disease prevention services for over 1.8 million residents and visitors of King County, Public Health Seattle & King County works for safer and healthier communities for everyone, every day.