Tuberculosis in Washington: more cases and getting harder to treat | Department of Health

Washington's tuberculosis (TB) cases were on the rise last year, putting state and local public health officials on heightened alert. During 2015, the state's TB rate rose by seven percent from the previous year. Across the globe, TB now kills more people each year than any other infectious disease, surpassing HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of infectious disease death worldwide.

Each year nearly 10 million people become ill with TB and 1.5 million die from the disease.

Washington’s tuberculosis (TB) cases were on the rise last year, putting state and local public health officials on heightened alert. During 2015, the state’s TB rate rose by seven percent from the previous year. Across the globe, TB now kills more people each year than any other infectious disease, surpassing HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of infectious disease death worldwide.

Each year nearly 10 million people become ill with TB and 1.5 million die from the disease. About one- third of the world’s population has latent TB, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not yet ill with the disease and cannot spread the disease to others. Last year, 208 cases of TB disease were reported in Washington, an increase from the 194 cases reported in 2014. The current rate of TB in our state finds that about 3 of every 100,000 Washingtonians develop TB disease, which is about the same as the national average; however, some communities have rates significantly higher than the national average. To eliminate the deadly disease in our state, prevention and treatment efforts must be tailored to address the diversity of affected populations.

TB is easily treated when detected in its early stage – called latent TB infection (LTBI). When LTBI develops into TB disease it’s more complex and serious.

“I’m concerned about the future of tuberculosis in Washington State,” says Washington’s Communicable Disease Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist. “Cases are becoming more complicated, requiring greater resources and skills in a time of decreased funding and increased global drug resistance.”

TB bacteria spreads through the air when someone with the illness coughs, sneezes, or speaks and someone else breathes in the bacteria. TB infection usually affects the lungs, however TB can attack other parts of the body. TB symptoms may include fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, and a persistent cough. Some people may be infected with the disease and have no symptoms. Timely treatment with proper antibiotics is vital to surviving the disease, lessening the severity of symptoms, and preventing the spread of TB. People with immature or weakened immune systems – such as young children, the elderly, and people with certain health conditions such as diabetes, organ transplantation, and HIV or AIDS – are at increased risk of the disease, if infected.

The counties with the most TB cases in 2015 were King (98), Snohomish (30), Pierce (16), and Yakima (12).

Drug-resistant TB (TB that is not cured by standard medications) is a serious public health threat globally. This variation requires longer treatment periods with drugs that are more expensive. Recently, the federal government issued a ‘National Action Plan for Combating Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis,’ urging states to strengthen their capacity to treat and detect drug-resistant TB.

In 2015, 21 cases reported to the Washington State Department of Health, were resistant to one or more drugs currently used as a “first line of treatment” for TB; four were multi-drug resistant. TB rates are often higher among racial and ethnic groups. In 2015, 76 percent of cases in the state were in people born outside the U.S. or its territories. In 2015, 49 percent of all cases in Washington were among Asians, followed by Blacks (17 percent), Hispanics (14 percent), and Whites (10 percent).

The overall TB crisis continues to increase, particularly as drug-resistant cases rise globally.

March 24 is World TB Day – a day set aside to share solutions and discuss issues related to this deadly disease. The Washington State Department of Health invites the public to attend a free World TB Day event at the Seattle Public Library on Thursday, March 24 from 5:30-7:45 p.m.This event features experts speaking about the global effect of TB, how TB impacts local communities, and obstacles facing patients with TB. Several local organizations will be on-site to share their work in the fight against TB.

More in Business

Hydrogen fuel cells gaining momentum | Don Brunell

But we’ve still got a long way to go before replacing fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

Business alliance serves women of African diaspora in South King County

Nourah Yonous launched the African Women Business Alliance in 2017 to find ways to lift women up.

Enumclaw Recyclers throws holiday recycling party

Enumclaw Recyclers is getting into the holiday spirit with its first-ever Not… Continue reading

Retail-tainment may save dying malls | Don Brunell

Brick-and-mortar shops are suffering; new interactive experiences could save them.

Enumclaw losing an (almost) necessity

After 25 years, Almost Necessities is closing shop.

The Greatest Generation is quickly slipping into history | Don Brunell

An estimated 389,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive.

A King County judge found the company misled customers into thinking it was a charity. Photo courtesy of the state Attorney General’s office
Judge rules Value Village deceived customers

The King County judge found the company misled customers into thinking it was a charity.

There’s more to be done than impeachment | Don Brunell

Congress can’t just focus on a single issue.

The power of reliable power | Don Brunell

We can’t take infrastructure for granted.

The wildfire season that wasn’t

Even though we had a break last summer, let’s take this opportunity to prepare for the next.

Customers Glow with drinks, food, entertainment

A relatively new martini lounge in Bonney Lake is now offering a live-entertainment series.

Caring for the dead, serving the living

Russ Weeks, funeral director at of Weeks Funeral Homes, speaks about his profession and how it’s changing with the times.