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FOR RELEASE: March 16 , 2006
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

World TB Day to Focus on “TB Through a Community Forum”

Prevention, early diagnosis and treatment can make the difference in health issues and keeping communities and families healthy. Such is the case with tuberculosis, or TB, often considered a disease of the past. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) recognizes March 24 as World TB Day and a time to remind the public and health providers to be aware that the threat of TB still exists in the United States.

The theme for this year’s World TB Day is “ TB Through a Community Forum.” This year, many of Oklahoma’s local county health departments will be sponsoring activities to draw attention to the disease.

There were 14,517 people in the United States diagnosed with TB in 2004. In 2005, 144 new TB cases were diagnosed in Oklahomans. As part of TB case investigations, 1,344 contacts to cases were identified, of which 884 received evaluations from county health department staff. A total of 189 contacts were started on medication regimens lasting six to 12 months to prevent TB disease.

“A statistical breakdown of Oklahoma’s cases in 2005 indicate that 51 percent were in the racial minorities, including 22 percent occurring in the American Indian population and 24 percent of cases being in the foreign born,” said OSDH TB Control Officer Jon Tillinghast, M.D.

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 bacteria get into the air. People who share the same air space with this person may breathe in the bacteria and become infected.

The symptoms of TB can include cough, 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. In rare instances, TB can be deadly.

A skin test is given to detect TB infection and if that test is positive, other tests are performed to determine if someone has the disease. Those with TB infection cannot spread the bacteria 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 doses of TB medication. This helps the patient to effectively adhere to a treatment plan.

“We hope that World TB Day reminds Oklahomans that although TB is a serious and potentially life threatening illness, it is treatable and can be cured,” said Crystal Nolen, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for the Elimination of Tuberculosis.

Some of the World TB Day activities planned around the state include:
Oklahoma City-County Health Department -- TB Community Open Forum on March 24 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Metro Tech in Oklahoma City.
Tulsa City-County Health Department -- TB Community Open Forum on March 24 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the James O. Goodwin Health Center in Tulsa.

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 general information about TB or TB testing or information about local World TB Day events, contact the county health department in your area. Information about TB is also available by visiting the OSDH Web site: http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/tb/index.html.

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