Tuberculosis infection rate reaches 30-year low in King County

October 27, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 6 a.m. Oct. 27, 2012

Tuberculosis rates in King County have reached a 30-year low due to local efforts to fight the disease, public health officials announced Thursday.

Still, King County faces a higher risk for cases in the United States, due to the county’s status as a global crossroads.

The latest TB report from Public Health – Seattle & King County details the findings, as well as information about the agency’s efforts to fight the disease.

“TB control is an essential investment in the health of our communities,” Dr. David Fleming, director health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a statement. “We can’t afford to let down our guard — especially now that drug-resistant TB is on the rise worldwide.”

The countywide TB rate fell to a 30-year low at 5.5 cases per 100,000 people, but the rate in King County remains significantly higher than the rates in Washington (3.0) and the United States (3.4).

The public health agency’s TB Program identified 106 cases of active TB last year.

In addition to active TB cases, health officials estimate 100,000 people in King County have latent, or dormant, TB infection and do not know they have the disease. The latent form could turn into active TB for some patients.

People with active TB disease become sick from bacteria active in their bodies. People with latent, or dormant, TB infection are not sick because the germ is inactive inside their bodies, and they cannot spread TB infection to others.

“If we catch TB infection before it becomes active, treatment is cheaper and easier, and we can help stop the spread of TB,” Dr. Masa Narita, TB control officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “Best of all, fewer people will get sick with active tuberculosis. For TB, treatment is prevention.”

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