World tuberculosis day March 24

Tuberculosis may be an “old” disease but it continues to threaten people globally and locally. New data show that in 2012, 108 people in King County were diagnosed with active TB.  World TB Day is an opportunity to learn about this disease that infects one-third of the world's population and kills nearly two million people every year. Drug treatment is challenging: Persons with drug resistant TB increased from 17% of the total number of King County cases in 2012 to 22% in 2013. Extremely drug resistant (XDR) TB is rare in King County. One person was found with XDR in 2011 but none in 2012. Drug resistant TB is a problem because first line medicines don’t work.  Remaining treatment options are more toxic and may be needed over a longer period of time.


“We were fortunate that no additional cases of extremely drug resistant TB were diagnosed in King County last year,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “But drug resistant TB continues to increase, and that’s a concern for our whole community.”


The TB program works every day to slow the transmission of TB in King County.

Key priorities include:

  • Managing local impacts of a national shortage of Isoniazid, which is a drug of choice for treating active and latent TB.
  • Using video technology as an alternative method of directly observing people taking their medicines, which ensures infectious TB patients take their medications as advised.  Skipping or missing treatment can lead to drug resistant TB.
  • Making it easier and simpler for patients with latent TB to receive and complete treatment by promoting an option of a once-weekly 12-dose treatment from a lengthier, 9-month regimen, thereby improving adherence and slowing transmission.
  • Using grant funds to reach out and engage culturally diverse and marginalized communities in TB control. Most cases of TB in King County are among the foreign-born.


Stats on TB in King County - 2012

  • In 2012, King County reported 108 cases of active TB. For every 100,000 residents of King County, 5.5 developed active TB disease in 2012. This case rate is higher than the 2011 U.S. case rate of 3.4 cases per 100,000 people.
  • About three hundred close contacts of persons with active TB were evaluated by Public Health and a third were found to be infected with the bacterium that causes TB.  The majority of the people who were diagnosed with latent TB infection were or are being treated  so that the chain of TB transmission in the community can be interrupted.
  • People of color continue to have disproportionately high rates of TB.
  • 79% of persons with active TB disease in King County  were born outside the U.S.
  • 3% of patients with active TB also had with HIV. Nationally, 8% of TB cases tested were HIV co-infected.
  • The number of homeless persons with TB has decreased since an outbreak among King County homeless people in 2002 and 2003, when 65 cases were diagnosed. Two homeless persons had active TB in 2012.
  • 24 people (22%) treated for active TB were resistant to at least one medication in 2012 and 2 persons had multi-drug resistant TB (MDR TB) cases were diagnosed and treated in King County in 2012.
  • TB spreads when someone who has TB in the lungs coughs. TB bacteria are expelled into the air, and may be inhaled into the lungs of another person. TB is not very infectious; it's much harder to catch than the common cold. It's not possible to get TB from sharing a glass with a person with TB or touching a doorknob after someone with TB has used it.


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