TB remains a global threat

LOS ANGELES -- As nations around the globe observed World TB Day 2010 on March 24, the Los Angeles County Health Officer reminded residents that despite the popular misconception that tuberculosis (TB) is a thing of the past, TB impacts millions of lives worldwide every year. Of concern are drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis, such as MDR-TB (multidrug-resistant tuberculosis) and XDR-TB (extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis)."Though efforts to manage, treat and eliminate tuberculosis have met with remarkable success in Los Angeles County, we are not immune to more serious forms of this disease," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, director of public health and health officer. "There were 116 local cases of MDR-TB between 1998 and 2008, which reminds us that TB is an ongoing threat. Through rapid diagnostic methods, timely reporting of cases to Public Health and appropriate care for all individuals, we can work toward one day eradicating this disease and its stronger forms." The number of cases of all forms of TB in LA County has plummeted from a peak of 2,100 in 1992 to 706 cases in 2009. Worldwide, more than 9 million cases are still reported annually, and more than 1.5 million people die of tuberculosis each year. Cases of TB in Los Angeles County appear to be largely contracted abroad, with the vast majority (77.4 percent in 2009) occurring in foreign-born individuals. Though the prevalence of the disease in the U.S. has declined over the past century, Los Angeles County - as a major hub of international travel, commerce and immigration - cannot expect to be unaffected by an illness that so strongly affects the U.S.'s neighbors. Because of limited medical resources in many countries, therapies run short or are inadequate, resulting in drug-resistant disease strains. Globally, there are an estimated half-million MDR-TB cases. Additionally, by the end of 2008, 55 countries and territories had reported at least one case of XDR-TB. Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium that usually attacks the lungs, but can also target other parts of the body, including the kidney, spine and brain. It is spread through the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes. People nearby who breathe in the bacteria can then become infected. Some people's bodies are able to fight the bacteria and keep them from multiplying, and exhibit no symptoms. This is called a latent TB infection, and may develop into an active TB infection later. People with active TB do experience symptoms as the bacteria attack and destroy tissue. These symptoms include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, pain in the chest, and coughing up blood. If not treated properly, TB can be fatal. It is particularly dangerous for medically vulnerable individuals. Patients who are immuno-compromised, such as those who are HIV-infected, and those who have other medical conditions, such as diabetes or cancer, are among the most likely to develop significant complications. In recognition of World TB Day, the Department of Public Health's TB Control Program held an educational symposium Wednesday for the private medical community. The conference covered TB epidemiology, the reporting and discharging of TB patients, the partnership between the private and public sectors in controlling TB, and updates on TB diagnosis and treatment. For further information about TB or World TB Day, please visit any of the following websites: www.stoptb.org or http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/tb

********** Published: March 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 49