King County among highest rates for tuberculosis

From staff reports:

King County continues to have one of the highest tuberculosis (TB) infection rates in the United States because of the worldwide epidemic and the region’s status as a global crossroads.

Public Health-Seattle and King County’s new 2010 TB report online at details these latest findings, its work in controlling the spread of the disease, and the ongoing and expensive challenge of battling drug resistant strains of TB.

In 2010, Public Health’s TB Program identified 114 cases of active TB and provided treatment and/or evaluation to more than 1,100 King County residents with active or latent TB. Nearly one in five people treated for active TB in King County are resistant to at least one medication, and two people had multi-drug resistant infections.

The costs of treating multi-drug resistant TB can add up to $250,000 for each case. Further, approximately 100,000 — or about five percent of people in King County — have latent TB infection. Globally, about two million die from TB every year, and one-third of the population is infected.

“TB control is an essential investment in the health of our communities that helps us fight the local effects of this global disease,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “In these difficult budget times, state funding support for this work is now threatened, but we can’t afford to let down our guard.”

Public health funding has experienced drastic cuts over the last few years, and potential cuts in Olympia further threaten core services, including TB control.

In addition to diagnosing and treating people with active TB, the TB Control Program also screens the family, friends and close contacts of people with active TB. In 2010, the TB Program tested more than 450 close contacts of people with active TB and found that nearly one-quarter were infected with latent (or dormant) TB.

“If we catch TB infection before it becomes active, treatment is cheaper and easier,” said Dr. Masa Narita, TB Control Officer for Public Health. “Best of all, fewer people will get sick with active tuberculosis.”

Additional findings in the 2010 TB Annual Report include:

• King County’s infection rate, at 5.9 residents per 100,000, was one and one half times the United States rate of 3.6 per 100,000, and the Washington rate of 3.5.

• People of color continue to have disproportionately high rates of TB.

• 84 percent of infected individuals were born outside of the U.S., primarily Southeast Asia and India, East Africa and Central America.



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