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McHenry County health officials mark March 24 as World TB Day

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 12:57 a.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County health officials saidFriday is World TB (Tuberculosis) Day, which is a good time to remember that although TB might be forgotten by most, it is not gone.

During 2016, 71 cases of latent or active TB were identified in McHenry County and followed by the McHenry County Department of Health.

In 2015, one case of extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR TB) was identified in McHenry County, requiring that the patient be transferred to and treated by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

About three to four cases of XDR TB are reported each year in the U.S. The McHenry County Department of Health conducts a contact investigation and case management for TB cases, offers TB testing and provides treatment, if needed, to those at high risk for developing TB. The department’s Tuberculosis Clinic in Woodstock makes available chest X-rays, diagnostic studies, laboratory services and medication to any person who works or resides in McHenry County.

Directly observed therapy provided to active cases assures that people take their medication as prescribed to cure and prevent the development of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), which is a growing international threat, county health officials said.

In the early 1900s, TB killed one out of every seven people living in the U.S. and Europe. Although that is no longer the case, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that today about one-third of the world’s population is living with TB. Statistics from the CDC say that in 2015 almost 10,000 TB cases were reported in the U.S. Worldwide, 10.4 million people became sick with TB, and the CDC counted 1.8 million TB-related deaths. 

TB cannot be transmitted from surfaces such as clothes, drinking glasses, shaking hands or eating utensils. TB is a bacteria that is spread through the air when someone with active TB of the lungs or throat coughs, laughs, sings or sneezes. People near the sick person can breathe in the germs. TB germs can live in someone without making that individual sick. This is called latent TB. This means the carrier has inactive TB germs in their body that cannot be passed on. However, if the germs become active and multiply, the individual will get sick and can spread the TB germ.

Most often, TB bacteria grow in the lungs, causing symptoms such as a bad cough, chest pain and coughing up blood or sputum. Other symptoms often include weakness, fatigue, weight loss, chills, fever and night sweats. Active TB is treated by taking antibiotics for six to nine months.

Although people can feel better after a few weeks of treatment, they can develop MDR-TB if they stop taking antibiotics early. MDR-TB takes longer to treat with more expensive drugs that have more side effects. XDR-TB develops when MDR-TB second-line drugs are misused or mismanaged.

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