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FOR RELEASE: March 24, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Tuberculosis Becoming an Urban Problem in Oklahoma
World TB Day is March 24

Today, World Tuberculosis Day, the Oklahoma Coalition for the Elimination of Tuberculosis (TB) announced a trend showing that TB in Oklahoma is becoming an urban disease. Health officials announced that 52 percent of all the TB cases in Oklahoma in 2003 were in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Both Oklahoma County and Tulsa County each reported 42 cases of TB occurring in their counties in 2003.

Oklahoma Coalition and state health officials announced a total of 163 cases of TB reported statewide in 2003, down from the 190 reported in 2002, and the 194 cases reported in 2001, representing a 14.2 percent decrease.

“We are seeing progress in the control of TB in Oklahoma. There were no significant outbreaks of TB in Oklahoma last year. Even so, TB is an ongoing health concern and we are asking the health community to be alert and screen for TB when symptoms for the disease are present, especially in urban areas of the state where most of the cases are reported,” said Dr. Jon Tillinghast, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for the Elimination of Tuberculosis and the TB Control Officer for the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

TB is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. It 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.

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.

“TB can be treated and cured, but it requires a very strict regimen in administering the medication to effectively fight the disease. It can take up to six months to properly treat TB. If a patient continues not to comply with treatment, then as a last resort we must confine the patient,” said Cindy Deisiring, LPN, Directly Observed Therapy provider with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.

Oklahoma uses directly observed therapy (DOT), in which a health care provider is assigned to actually observe the patient taking each dose of TB medication. This helps the patient to effectively adhere to a supervised treatment plan. Oklahoma has required that DOT therapy be used for new TB cases since 1997.

About 10 million to 15 million people in the United States are infected with the TB bacillus (bug), but the vast majority of them have no disease from the infection. Only a minority of will develop TB disease each year. Worldwide, about one-third of the population of the globe is infected with the TB organism. Nationally, there were 14,871 cases of TB in the U.S. in 2003 with an infection rate of 5.1 cases per 100,000 persons. For Oklahoma, the rate was 4.6 cases per 100,000 persons.

“One of our biggest challenges in the field of public health is to combat known infectious diseases like TB while intensifying the fight against new emerging health threats like SARS, West Nile virus and bioterrorism,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher. In public health, prevention and advance preparation are a prescription for success.”

The members of the Oklahoma Coalition for the Elimination of Tuberculosis are 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.

For more information about TB or TB testing, contact your local county health department or visit this Web site: http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/tb/index.html.

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