Tuberculosis: Still a threat

Tuberculosis is a disease we don’t think about much these days, but there were 372 active cases of this contagious disease reported in Illinois last year.

That’s a decline from  the 418 cases in 2009 —  despite a TB outbreak last year that included 20 confirmed cases at a homeless shelter in Kane County, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

World Tuberculosis Day today serves as a reminder that the disease is still around and contagious.

Worldwide,  one-third of the total population is infected with TB, according to the American Lung Association. Each year, there are more than 9 million new cases of  the disease and 2 million people die from it.

While TB rates in the U.S. are at record lows since reporting began in 1953, the declines have slowed down in recent years  along with the widespread emergence of drug-resistant strains, the lung association says.
 
Illinois health officials say 61 percent of people getting TB in the state were born in countries where the disease is most common, such as Mexico, India and  the Philippines.

TB infection can attack any part of the body but usually affects the lungs. Symptoms can include coughing, night sweats, weight loss, fatigue and fever. See this website for more info: http://www.idph.state.il.us/public/hb/hbtb.htm

TB is potentially life-threatening but curable. The problem is, some patients don’t follow the strict six-month drug treatment regimen, and become re-infected, then sometimes the usual antibiotics don’t work, health officials say.

TB is transmitted through the air when infected people cough or sneeze.

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