Tuberculosis remains ongoing health threat in King County

March 23, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 8 a.m. March 23, 2012

King County health officials identified the first case of extremely drug resistant tuberculosis in 2011, and officials said TB continues to pose a health threat.

Public Health – Seattle & King County released the data to mark World TB Day, Saturday. In 2011, officials identified more than 100 cases of active TB countywide, including a person suffering from the extremely drug resistant TB.

Globally, TB infects one-third of the population and kills almost 2 million people each year.

King County’s active TB rate is consistently among the highest in the country. Officials said the high rate reflects the global nature of the disease. Of the 116 people suffering from TB, 88 percent had immigrated to the United States.

Though TB is curable, extremely drug resistant TB does not respond to most antibiotics and is exceedingly costly and difficult to treat.

“TB is curable and preventable, but controlling TB is an ongoing challenge,” Dr. Masa Narita, TB control officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a statement.

The person suffering from extremely drug resistant TB recently lived in King County, but received the diagnosis overseas. Local public health officials joined national and international health organizations to identify and evaluate close contacts of the person to ensure the disease did not spread.

Officials did not identify any additional cases of extremely drug resistant TB as a result of the investigation.

“In King County, we aren’t immune from the global TB epidemic or the changing nature of the disease itself,” Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a statement. “This extremely drug resistant case is just one example of why we can’t afford to relax our efforts in controlling TB.”

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