NJ Recognizes March 24 As World TB Day

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STATE — With the rate of active tuberculosis (TB) on a steady decline, Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd commended public health workers for their efforts in the fight against the disease, but warned that only through continued education and vigilance will New Jersey be able to continue its progress against this serious public health threat.

World TB Day, March 24, commemorates the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacteria that causes TB. The day is observed each year to raise awareness of TB-related problems and solutions and to support worldwide TB-control efforts.

Tuberculosis, caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is spread from person to person through the air. The disease typically affects the lungs, but can affect the brain, kidney and spine.

Active TB cases have declined by about 70 percent in New Jersey since the early 1990s. While TB has been declining among residents born in the United States, the number of cases is increasing among foreign-born residents. Nearly 85 percent of active TB cases in the state in 2012 were among foreign-born residents. The increase may reflect the growth of New Jersey’s foreign-born population and that this population may have come to the state from areas where cases of TB are prevalent.

“Last year, 302 New Jersey residents were diagnosed with active TB, the lowest number of cases since 1992 when 982 cases were reported,” said O’Dowd. “New Jersey has a world-class TB program and we will continue supporting our collaboration with physicians, hospitals, researchers and clinics to achieve the goal of eliminating TB in our lifetime.”

Counties reporting the highest active TB incidences in 2012 were Middlesex (59 cases), Essex (40), Hudson (38), Bergen (38), Union (21), and Passaic (20).

Every person with TB in the state is assigned a nurse case manager to supervise their care. Nearly all TB cases are placed on directly observed therapy to ensure they take all medication. This is necessary for successful treatment of the disease and to prevent drug-resistant TB strains from emerging. Nurse case managers also identify the person’s close contacts and arrange for medical evaluation in order to reduce the further spread of TB.

If needed, complex TB cases may be referred to one of six regional specialty clinics at UMDNJ — University Hospital, the Hudson County Health Department, Morristown Memorial Hospital, Somerset Medical Center, the Middlesex County Health Department, and the Camden County Department of Health. Clinic physicians are experts in diagnosing and treating TB, and also consult with private physicians whose patients have complex medical issues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will host a World TB Day event that will be available via live webcast. The event will highlight 2012 U.S. TB surveillance data, as well as a keynote address by Dr. Susan Ray, Professor, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia. For more information about this event, please visit the event webpage.

According to the CDC, one third of the world’s population is infected with TB. In 2011, more than nine million became sick with the disease and 1.4 million died. TB is a leading killer of people who are HIV-infected.

The CDC funds the Global TB Institute at the New Jersey Medical School – UMDNJ, which has been designated a Regional Training and Medical Consultation Center, serving the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. It offers state-of-the-art treatment, conducts research, and provides consultation, education and training to physicians and health officials. The New Jersey Medical School’s Public Health Research Institute also offers sophisticated laboratory testing to quickly identify TB strains. This aids in patient treatment and in investigating cases that may be linked to the person ill with TB.

About Tuberculosis

TB bacteria become active when a person’s immune system can’t stop the bacteria from spreading and multiplying. Babies, young adults, the elderly, those with HIV and others with weak immune systems are at increased risk of contracting TB, including: people with cancer, severe kidney disease, low body weight and those who have undergone an organ transplant.

Symptoms of TB include a bad cough that lasts for more than two weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs). Other symptoms are weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever, and night sweats.

Treatment for TB includes taking many types of drugs concurrently that that work together to kill the bacteria. The regimen lasts at least six months, and medication must be taken even after the person feels well. Taking several drugs will do a better job of killing all of the bacteria and also prevent the bacteria from becoming drug resistant. TB is almost always cured with proper treatment.

For more on New Jersey’s TB program and information about the disease, visit: http://www.nj.gov/health/tb/index.shtml.


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