King County’s tuberculosis infection rate remains high

December 20, 2011

By Staff

King County continues to experience one of the highest tuberculosis infection rates in the United States.

Public Health – Seattle & King County released the latest findings about the infectious disease Nov. 21 in the 2010 TB report. The report also details local efforts to control the disease, and the ongoing and expensive challenge of battling drug resistant strains.

In 2010, the public health agency’s TB Program identified 114 cases of active TB, and provided treatment and or evaluation to more than 1,100 King County residents suffering from active or latent TB.

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

Officials said almost one in five patients treated for active TB in King County is resistant to at least one medication. The costs of treating multidrug resistant TB can add up to $250,000 for each case.

On the Web

Read Public Health – Seattle & King County’s 2010 tuberculosis report, and learn more about TB, at www.kingcounty.gov/ healthservices/health/ communicable/TB.aspx.

Officials said about 84 percent of people infected in King County had been born outside the United States, primarily Southeast Asia, India, East Africa and Central America.

In addition, about 100,000 people — or about 5 percent of people in King County — have latent TB infection.

Globally, about 2 million die from TB every year, and one third of the population is infected.

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

“If we catch TB infection before it becomes active, treatment is cheaper and easier,” Dr. Masa Narita, TB Control Officer for the public health agency, said in a statement. “Best of all, fewer people will get sick with active tuberculosis.”

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