TB reports in Alabama last year were up 10 percent from 2010, and case demographics have changed as well.
The disease was a much bigger problem a generation ago, but advances in treatment and management have helped to steadily drive down infection rates. In the 1990s, Alabama logged more than 400 TB cases annually, roughly three times the current numbers. Cases hit a record low of 146 in 2010 but climbed to 161 in 2011.
Pam Barrett, director of the TB program with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), said cases now are seen primarily among immigrants and people with other medical problems. “The cases are different than the historical TB patients,” Barrett said. “We have a lot of foreign-born TB. We have people with HIV; they’re immuno-compromised.”
According to CDC, 60 percent of all US TB cases last year were among foreign-born residents. Those most at risk are people of Asian descent: They have an infection rate 22 times higher than that of whites.
ADPH initiates testing on patients suspected of having TB no later than one day after the case is reported, and it starts patients on TB medicines even before test results are available. State investigators interview the patient’s family, friends, and co-workers to identify those who might be at risk and test them accordingly.
Date of Publication
Stan Diel, Birmingham News
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