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FOR RELEASE: March 24, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

American Indians with Diabetes at High Risk of Getting Tuberculosis
World TB Day is March 24

Today, World Tuberculosis Day, the Oklahoma Coalition for the Elimination of Tuberculosis (TB) announced a growing concern that diabetic American Indians are one of the populations most at risk for TB in Oklahoma. Health officials say that American Indians represent 20 percent of the total statewide caseload for TB for a rate of 13 cases per 100,000 population during 2004.

“Even though we have made tremendous advances in curtailing TB, we must remain vigilant in our surveillance and treatment of TB, which continues to be a great threat to many, including our state’s American Indian population,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher.

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.

Nationally, there were 14,511 cases of TB in the U.S. in 2004 with an infection rate of 4.9 cases per 100,000 persons. During 2004, there were 178 cases of TB in Oklahoma for a disease rate of 5.2 cases per 100,000 persons.

“We hope to draw attention today to the need for TB outreach and treatment collaborative efforts between American Indian health facilities, and the state and county health departments,” said Dr. John Farris, Chief Medical Officer of the Oklahoma City Indian Health Services. “Of particular concern is the infection rate for diabetic American Indians because having both diabetes and TB infection places persons at risk for getting TB disease.”

“We are seeing progress in the control of TB in Oklahoma. Yet, in spite of this, TB remains an ongoing health concern because of its occurrence in the foreign born and in our American Indian population,” said Dr. Dale Claflin, President of the Oklahoma Coalition for the Elimination of Tuberculosis.

“TB 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,” said Dr. Jon Tillinghast, TB Control Officer at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Tillinghast emphasized that if not properly treated, ongoing transmission of the infection to others will occur, which can lead to TB outbreaks. “TB can be deadly in rare instances,” he said.

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 disease is treated and cured through a strict regimen in administering the medication, which takes at least six months to properly treat. Oklahoma uses directly observed therapy (DOT), through which a health care provider is assigned to physically observe the patient take each dose of TB medication. This helps the patient to effectively adhere to a supervised treatment plan.

Members of the Oklahoma Coalition for the Elimination of Tuberculosis 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.
For information regarding outreach efforts to American Indians for the prevention, early detection and treatment of TB, contact Indian Health Service facilities, tribal health facilities, or your local county health department.

For general information about TB, contact the Oklahoma State Department of Health at 405/271-4060 or the county health department in your area. Information is also available by visiting this Oklahoma State Department of Health Web site: http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/tb/index.html.

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