Public Health – Seattle & King County is following up on a person at the University of Washington Seattle campus who was diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB). Public Health is working with the UW to determine whether others have contracted TB from exposure to this person. The University and Public Health are contacting all individuals who had enough exposure to the patient to warrant screening for TB infection. TB is an infectious disease, but it’s much harder to spread than the cold or flu.
More details on the evaluation
One hundred and twenty-one people are being recommended to be screened for TB. Screening includes having a TB skin test placed, then having it read two days later for a skin reaction. For those who received BCG vaccine outside of the U.S., a blood test may be offered.
Treatment for TB
The person with active TB disease is currently receiving treatment, and is not currently a risk for infecting others. Most cases of TB are readily treatable with antibiotics that are commonly available. To become cured, a patient must complete the entire treatment, even after they are no longer infectious. If the treatment is interrupted before the bacteria are completely eliminated, TB can develop drug-resistance and become much harder to treat. Learn more about TB drug resistance here.
More about TB
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by TB bacteria that are spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but can affect lymph nodes, bones, joints, and other parts of the body. A person with active TB in the lungs can spread the disease by coughing or sneezing. In King County, 98 new cases of TB disease were reported in 2015. On average, two cases of TB disease are diagnosed in King County each week.
Unlike active TB disease, people with latent (or dormant) TB infection can’t spread it to others and are not ill with the disease. Approximately 100,000 people in King County have latent TB infection. While they aren’t contagious now, they could potentially have active TB in the future and also infect others.
Approximately five percent of newly infected contacts of a person with active TB develop active TB disease themselves within two years. An additional five percent become ill at some point over the remainder of their lives. Ninety percent of people with latent TB infection never develop active TB disease.
To learn more about signs, symptoms, and transmission of TB, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s TB website.
TB program protects the community
Public Health – Seattle & King County’s TB Control Program ensures that people with active TB are diagnosed and cured, and that others in contact with them who are at highest risk of infection are screened, so that infections do not spread. This essential public health work improves the community’s health and saves money by controlling the spread of TB, preventing outbreaks, and preventing the development of multi-drug resistant TB that can be very expensive to treat.
TB is a global threat, with over two million deaths every year, as people in many parts of the world do not have access to treatment and effective TB control programs like we do in the United States. Because we are at a global crossroads in King County, we need to be constantly vigilant to prevent the spread of TB.