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Oklahoma Coalition for the Elimination of Tuberculosis
c/o Oklahoma State Department of Health - TB Division
1000 Northeast 10th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73117-1299

 

FOR RELEASE: March 24, 2003
CONTACT: H.R. Holman
405/425-4361
Pager: 405/502-0357

World TB Day to Focus on “People with Tuberculosis”

Today, World Tuberculosis Day, the Oklahoma Coalition for the Elimination of Tuberculosis (TB) is working with the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to focus attention and public awareness on people with TB disease. According to the coalition, the good news is that TB can be treated and cured.

TB is an infectious disease caused by bacteria, which usually affects the lungs. However, other parts of the body can also be affected. It is spread when someone with TB disease of the lung coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings and the TB germs get into the air. People who share the same air space with this person may breathe in the germs and become infected.

Symptoms can include feeling weak or sick, weight loss, fever and night sweats. Persons with TB of the lung often complain about a cough, chest pain or coughing up blood. Persons diagnosed with active TB must comply with an intensive course of treatment for at least six months. If not properly treated, TB can be deadly.

The World TB Day theme this year is DOTS Cured Me - It Will Cure You Too. “Building on this theme, health officials and coalition organizations want to educate people on how to recognize the symptoms of TB, seek treatment and get cured, ” said TB Coalition member Gary Porter. He said Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) is effective because it assigns a health care provider to actually observe the patient taking each dose of TB medication and helps the patient adhere to a strict treatment plan. In 1997, Oklahoma began requiring each new case to be managed with DOTS therapy, resulting in a steady increase in the percentage of cases completing an effective full course of therapy.

State health officials note a very slight decrease in the number of TB cases reported in Oklahoma in 2002; 190 cases were reported, down from 194 cases in 2001. Even so, TB is an ongoing health concern. An outbreak in southwest Oklahoma in 2001 and 2002 resulted in 38 cases of TB. “As a result of exposure to one undiagnosed active case of TB, more than 1,000 people were eventually screened,” said Dr. Jon Tillinghast, TB control officer for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Health officials from the state health department, CDC, and local health departments in Comanche, Jackson and Tillman counties continue to investigate and monitor the outbreak of TB in those counties. “We worked with various hospitals, clinics, physicians, families, the state health department and CDC to evaluate contacts to primary cases, secondary cases and treat those who were exposed or tested positive. Such therapy interrupted the transmission of infection and kept newly infected persons from going on to get the disease,” said Fran Winters, a public health nurse with the Jackson County Health Department.

The test for TB is simple. A skin test is given to detect TB infection and if that test is positive, other tests are run to determine if someone has the disease. Those with TB infection cannot spread the germs to others; however, those with the TB disease are contagious.

“Public education efforts through our coalition members and other organizations have helped to hold case numbers below 200 in 2002. The first time we had less than 200 cases in a year in Oklahoma was in 1998,” Porter said. One patient said he read about TB in a newspaper article and recognized the symptoms and decided to be evaluated by the county health department.

Coalition organizations include the American Lung Association, American Diabetes Association, Chickasaw Nation Health Center, J.D. McCarty Center, Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers, Oklahoma City-County Health Department, Oklahoma College of Public Health, Oklahoma State Department of Health, and the Tulsa City-County Health Department.

An estimated 10 million to 15 million people in the United States are infected with TB, but the vast majority of them have latent TB infection. Only 5 to10 percent of people with latent TB will progress to the active, infectious stage of the disease. Worldwide, about one-third of the population of the globe is infected with the TB organism.

“The point is that while TB is a life threatening illness, it is treatable and can be cured. Public health departments must stay properly funded to monitor and treat TB and other contagious diseases in Oklahoma. Our primary goal is to create an environment that produces a healthy state,” said Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

For more information about TB or TB testing, contact your local county health department.

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