LAS VEGAS — March 24 is World TB Day, the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced he identified M. tuberculosis, the bacteria responsible for one of the world's most dreaded diseases. Today, tuberculosis affects approximately two billion people worldwide. This year's theme is Unite to END TB. In 2015, there were 72 cases reported in Clark County. For information about TB, visit the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) site: CDC TB Basics
An ancient illness and once the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, TB is curable but not eradicated. The Southern Nevada Health District's active contact investigation programs and its community partnerships have been instrumental in avoiding a sudden surge in newly reported cases, allowing the rate of active cases to remain steady over time.
Nationwide, there were 9,421 cases of TB in 2014. According to the CDC, the 2014 TB rate in the United States was 2.96 cases per 100,000 people, a decrease of 2.2 percent compared to 2013; however, it is the smallest decline in case rates in more than a decade. In 1954, the case rate for TB was 48.9 cases per 100,000. Although TB can affect anyone, the majority of cases nationwide and in Nevada are among the foreign born in whose home countries exposures and latent TB infection rates are high. In Clark County, 71 percent of patients were foreign born. The CDC estimates that about 4 percent of the US population is infected with TB although they may not be sick or infectious.
The CDC reports the following statistics for TB:
Approximately one in three people worldwide have latent TB infection
In 2014, 9.6 million people became sick with TB disease worldwide
In 2014, there were approximately 1.5 million TB-related deaths worldwide
In 2013, there were 555 TB-related deaths in the United States, an 8 percent increase from 2012
TB is a leading cause of death for people with HIV
The CDC has personal stories from real TB patients on its website: CDC TB Personal Stories. These patients come from various communities throughout the United States.
The Southern Nevada Health District works with federal and state health officials, local agencies, and national advocacy groups to identify active cases for treatment as well as their close contacts for preventive care, and it provides education and expert consultation on infection control practices, screening procedures, and case reporting.
World TB Day is an opportunity to educate the community about an important component of public health and to encourage health care providers to consider tuberculosis when they treat patients with symptoms that could be TB. This critical diagnosis helps to get patients into treatment quickly and limits the spread to the patient's contacts.
At any given time, there are approximately70-75 people undergoing treatment for active TB in Clark County under the supervision of the Health District. Adherence to treatment is key to eliminating the risk of spreading TB to a patient's close contacts and the community as a whole. In recent years, drug resistant strains of TB have developed, limiting treatment options with several cases of drug resistant cases identified locally. "Directly observed" therapy protocols require the TB Treatment and Control Clinic to utilize a number of resources to monitor patient compliance with therapy. Health District clinicians coordinate care for patients, many of whom voluntarily remain in quarantine until adherence to an effective treatment plan renders them no longer infectious. Treatment can take six to 24 months and requires supervision, which is burdensome on the patient and health care systems.
People who test positive for TB and who are asymptomatic have "latent" TB infection. They are not sick and are incapable of spreading the disease. It means that they have been exposed to the TB bacterium at some point in their lives. People with latent TB are offered treatment to prevent them from developing an active case of TB which could spread disease.