San Rafael, CA – Tuberculosis, better known as TB, is both deadly and preventable. There are very few cases in Marin County each year, but already in 2019 there have been three reported local cases – more than half of 2018’s total of five – according to the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Symptoms of TB can include a cough for more than two to three weeks, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, fever, night sweats and weight loss.
Reported cases statewide are on the rise as well, and that is why Marin HHS’ Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Program continues to advocate for increased testing and treatment of latent TB infection. This year’s World TB Day is March 24, and the theme is: It’s Time!
The California Department of Public Health has announced that 2,091 new cases of tuberculosis (TB) disease were identified in the state in 2018, an increase compared to the 2,059 cases reported in 2017. TB is one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases and is one of the top 10 causes of death, causing more deaths each year than HIV/AIDS.
Latent TB infection means that an individual has the germ that causes TB, but it is not yet making them sick. TB is primarily acquired through close contact with an infected person, and it can be acquired through international travel. Travelers should avoid prolonged contact with known TB patients in crowded, enclosed environments such as clinics, hospitals, or prisons. If they will be working in those settings, they should consult an occupational health expert.
Most individuals with latent TB infection have not been diagnosed and treated, have no symptoms and are not contagious, but without treatment they are at risk for becoming sick with TB disease in the future.
“Treatment of latent TB infection is essential to achieve a TB-free California,” said Dr. Lisa Santora, Marin’s Deputy Public Health Officer. “TB can affect anyone. Many patients with latent and active TB are not aware that they have been infected. Health care providers need to continue to think of TB as a possibility and screen appropriately.”
Symptoms of TB can include a cough for more than two to three weeks, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, fever, night sweats and weight loss. Patients with active TB must remain isolated and take medication until they are not infectious.
People born outside of the United States continue to experience higher TB rates compared to their U.S.-born counterparts, with the highest rates in Marin among Hispanics. Others at high risk for TB include those who have traveled to or lived in a country with an elevated TB rate, have weakened immune systems, or have come in close contact to someone with infectious TB.
Marin HHS urges anyone in a high-risk category take an online risk assessment and ask a health care provider about testing and treatment for TB. Marin County Public Health partners with Marin Community Clinics to provide health care services for local patients with TB. Marin HHS also monitors medication adherence and helps patients access the services they need.