Health and Family Services Cabinet
March 24 Is World TB Day
Disease Remains Serious Public Health Concern
As part of its ongoing work to educate the public about tuberculosis (TB) and prevent the spread of the disease, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is reminding the state that March 24 is World TB Day.
This year’s theme, “Reach the Three Million: A TB test, treatment and cure for all,” refers to one-third of the 9 million people who get sick with TB every year and do not get the TB services they need. Much of this occurs in developing countries where people simply do not have access to care.
“Many people assume that TB is no longer a concern in this country, but we continue to see cases each year – in Kentucky and around the U.S.,” said DPH Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield, M.D. “While public health has made great strides in preventing the spread of the disease, our work continues. We hope everyone will take the opportunity on World TB Day to learn more about TB, particularly how it is spread and how it can be treated if someone is exposed to or contracts TB.”
The observance was created to commemorate the date in 1882 when Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB. Among infectious diseases caused by a single agent or pathogen, TB remains the second leading cause of death in adults worldwide second only to HIV-AIDS.
TB is a potentially fatal disease that usually attacks the lungs, but can attack any part of the body, such as the kidneys, spine or brain. The disease is commonly diagnosed in Kentucky, the United States and all over the world.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2012, 8.6 million people developed TB and 1.3 million died from the disease. Meanwhile, the rate of new TB cases has been falling worldwide for about a decade. Globally, the TB mortality rate has fallen by 45 percent since 1990.
“TB remains a public health burden despite significant progress toward elimination,” said Mayfield. “In Kentucky, surveillance data show that 78 TB cases were reported in 2012. This is a significant number and further emphasizes the need for continued outreach and education.”
TB is a disease that is transmitted person to person through the air when an infectious person coughs, shouts, sneezes, speaks or sings. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.
People who are at high risk for becoming infected with TB include: close contacts of a person with TB; people with poor access to healthcare, such as those who are homeless; people who live or work in high-risk congregate settings (i.e. homeless shelters, nursing homes); intravenous drug users, healthcare workers; infants, children and adolescents exposed to high-risk adults; and people from foreign countries where TB is common.
People with TB are infectious and can give the infection to other people.
Symptoms of TB include a cough lasting greater than three weeks, fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, coughing up blood, loss of appetite, chest pain and fatigue. Risk factors for progression to active TB include HIV infection, new TB infection in the last two years, diabetes, immunosuppression, and age, especially children younger than 4 years old.
More information about TB as well as Kentucky’s efforts to track and prevent the spread of the disease can be found at http://www.chfs.ky.gov/dph/epi/tb.htm.
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is home to most of the state's human services and health care programs, including Medicaid, the Department for Community Based Services and the Department for Public Health. CHFS is one of the largest agencies in state government, with nearly 8,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Commonwealth focused on improving the lives and health of Kentuckians.