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It’s time to know your tuberculosis status and risk
Testing and treatment are key to TB elimination

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The California Department of Public Health has announced that 2,091 new cases of tuberculosis (TB) disease were identified in the state in 2018, an increase compared to the 2,059 cases reported in 2017. Tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases and is one of the top ten causes of death, causing more deaths each year than HIV/AIDS. San Mateo County Health continues to advocate for increased testing and treatment of latent TB infection because treatment prevents people from developing TB disease. Latent TB infection means that an individual has the germ that causes TB but has not yet become sick. Treatment of latent TB infection is essential to achieving a TB-free California. This year’s World TB Day (March 24th, 2019) theme is It’s Time!

More than 2,000 people are diagnosed with TB disease in California every year, consistently making up over 20 percent of all cases diagnosed across the nation. In California, 10 percent of those diagnosed with TB disease die with TB. Tuberculosis is preventable—by treating latent TB infection. Most individuals with latent TB infection have not been diagnosed and treated, have no symptoms, and are not contagious, but without treatment they are at risk for becoming sick with TB disease in the future.

“We need to be vigilant and work with our partners to test, treat, and eradicate tuberculosis,” says Lisa Goozé, MD, San Mateo County Health’s TB controller. “The road to TB elimination is to identify and treat latent TB infection. We need to emphasize testing and education to ensure that TB infection does not develop into active disease and does not spread from those who are unaware that they are infected.”

San Mateo County reported 61 cases of TB in 2018, an increase from 55 cases in 2017. The California Tuberculosis Controllers Association provides an interactive map of California that provides 2018 TB data for all counties. 

Symptoms of TB disease can include a cough for more than two to three weeks, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. When a person with TB disease coughs, people who share that same air can become infected as well.

People born outside of the United States continue to experience higher TB rates compared to their U.S.-born counterparts. Others at high risk for TB include those who have traveled to or lived in a country with an elevated TB rate, have weakened immune systems, or have come into close contact with someone with infectious TB.

If you have a risk factor for TB or are unsure, ask your health care provider about testing and treatment to protect yourself and your family. A list of TB testing sites in San Mateo County can be found here. TB screening and treatment are essential to eliminate TB. It’s time to stop the spread of TB together.