World TB Day is each March 24 commemorating the discovery by Dr. Robert Koch in 1882 of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. The theme for this national campaign is “Stop TB in my lifetime.” The campaign aims for zero deaths from tuberculosis; universal access to care; faster treatment; a quick, cheap, low-tech test; an effective vaccine; and a world free of tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis disease affects the lungs and sometimes the brain, kidneys, or the spine. Left untreated, it can cause death. It is spread through the air when a person with tuberculosis disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings. Symptoms may include weakness, weight loss, fever, night sweats, coughing, coughing up blood and chest pain.
People may also have Latent TB Infection (LTBI) with no symptoms. Those with LTBI cannot spread the germs to others since the germs are lying dormant or sleeping in their body. These individuals could develop tuberculosis disease later in life, especially if they have HIV infection; have been infected with TB within the last two years; have other health problems, such as diabetes; abuse alcohol or illegal drugs; or were not treated correctly for LTBI in the past.
Tuberculosis remains an epidemic in many developing countries causing 1.5 million deaths each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “A total of 10,528 TB cases (a rate of 3.4 cases per 100,000 persons) were reported in the United States in 2011.” There were 529 deaths in the U.S. in 2009.
Franklin County Health Department provides approximately 4,000 tuberculosis services each year including testing and treatment. Franklin County experienced zero cases of tuberculosis in 2012. In the past 11 years Franklin County has had approximately five tuberculosis cases that were all treated successfully. FCHD Registered Nurse and Tuberculosis Coordinator Anita Johnson said, “It is important to make sure you complete treatment for tuberculosis.”
A TB skin test inserts a harmless material, tuberculin, just under the skin on the inside of your lower arm. To determine if there is a reaction a healthcare worker must see your arm two to three days after receiving the TB skin test. If there is a positive reaction further tests, such as an X-Ray or sputum sample, will determine if one has LTBI that is dormant or TB disease that can be spread.
Both LTBI and TB disease can be treated and cured with medication. Treatment for LTBI usually includes nine months of medication to kill the TB germs. TB disease treatment may include six to 18 months of medication depending on how you respond.
It is extremely important to take all TB medications even though those with LTBI do not feel sick and those with TB disease may start to feel better after several weeks on medication. Directly Observed Therapy (DOT), where a healthcare worker brings you your pills every day or a few times a week and watches you take them, ensures proper treatment.
To schedule a TB test call FCHD at 564-7647. For more information about TB and the “Stop TB in my lifetime” campaign visit www.stoptb.org.
Judy Mattingly holds a Master of Arts in Health Communication degree and is the accreditation coordinator at the Franklin County Health Department, 100 Glenns Creek Rd.