New tuberculosis cases were at an all-time low in Illinois last year, but the state still had the fifth-highest number of cases in the nation, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
With World Tuberculosis Day set for March 24, IDPH Acting Director Dr. Arthur Kohrman warned TB is still circulating worldwide and can still be a threat in the U.S. And many new cases are drug-resistant, he says.
The potentially life-threatening disease is spread through the air through coughs and sneezes, and attacks the lungs. Symptoms can include a cough that doesn’t go away and sometimes comes with blood and chest pain. Most cases are curable, but patients have to stick to a prescribed medication faithfully for six months or more, or the infection can return.
Illinois had 359 active TB cases in 2011, compared to 372 the previous year, according to the department of public health. Of the total new cases, 63 percent of the patients were born in foreign countries.
The state attributes last year's record low in new cases to Directly Observed Therapy, which is a program targeted at making sure people finish their medication.
The decline is also attributed to identifying and treating people who have had close contact with TB patients, and treating latent infections when it's considered appropriate.