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FOR RELEASE: March 15, 2007
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

World TB Day to Focus on Sustaining Record Low Incidence of Tuberculosis In Oklahoma Oklahoma Cases Have Declined since 2001

Tuberculosis (TB) is often considered a disease of the past. And in fact, Oklahoma sustained a record low number of 143 persons with active tuberculosis disease in 2006. But tuberculosis is also a communicable disease that knows no boundaries and can quickly spread if not contained. A case of TB anywhere in the world means the potential for TB to strike everywhere is still a threat.

This year as part of the World TB Day observance on Saturday, March 24, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) will join federal and international health agencies in recognizing the continuing role that tuberculosis plays in causing disease and death in Oklahoma and around the world.

“This is a time to remind the public and health providers to be aware that the threat of TB still persists and our fight against TB must remain vigilant,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mike Crutcher.

Cases of tuberculosis have steadily declined in Oklahoma since 2001. While good news, health officials are extremely concerned that about 10 percent of all new TB infections are now resistant to at least one anti-TB drug. Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR-TB, has now been documented in 28 countries around the world with the most significant occurrence of XDR-TB in persons living in South Africa, South Korea and Eastern Europe. The threat of a person with XDR-TB coming to the United States is always present. There is no effective way to screen those who eventually may become sick with TB from entering the U.S. or Oklahoma.

Nearly one-third of the world’s total population, or about two billion people, are infected with the bacteria that cause TB. Tuberculosis 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.

Page 2 of 2The symptoms of TB can include cough, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. Persons with TB of the lung often complain about a cough lasting longer than two to three weeks, and sometimes 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, a chest x-ray, sputum (phlegm) examination and occasionally other tests are performed to determine if someone has TB disease. Those with TB infection cannot spread the bacteria to others. However, those with the TB disease are contagious.

All cases of TB can be treated and cured through a strict drug regimen. Standard TB therapy lasts from six to nine months but therapy for disease caused by drug-resistant bacteria is necessary for 18 to 24 months. 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 adhere to the 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 it can be cured,” said Dr. Jon Tillinghast, OSDH TB control officer. “There is effective treatment for persons with TB infection, who are not yet ill, to prevent development of disease.”

For information about TB disease and testing, contact the OSDH Acute Disease Service, TB Division at 405-271-4060, visit this Web site: http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/tb/index.html, or contact your local county health department. Health care providers and TB health professionals who are interested in building their tuberculosis education and training skills can visit this Web site: www.cdc.gov/nchstp/tb/TBETN/default.htm.

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