By Victoria Bethay
For many, tuberculosis (TB) seems to be a disease from another era, something our parents or grandparents might have had to worry about. TB, which is still around today, is a treatable bacterial disease found primarily in the lungs. It is spread from person to person through the air.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control works tirelessly to eliminate TB in our state through awareness campaigns targeting high-risk populations, education of medical staff on TB, and excellent patient care for those diagnosed with it.
To help build awareness, World TB Day has been designated for March 24 to commemorate the discovery of the mycobacterium that causes TB in people. This year’s theme, chosen in collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Stop TB and the National TB Controllers Association, is “End TB.” The strategy aims to eliminate this deadly disease worldwide, and DHEC plays a key role in the effort to reduce the number of cases in South Carolina.
Globally, 9.6 million people were diagnosed with active TB disease in 2014. The United States reported having 9,421 of those cases. In that same year, South Carolina diagnosed 79 cases of TB. South Carolina’s African-American population is at a much greater risk for developing TB – in 2014 this community made up 64.6 percent of TB cases statewide.
TB can be spread from person to person through the air when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, speaks or even sings. Individuals with active TB disease may have a cough lasting three weeks or longer, chest pain, coughing up blood or mucus, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever or chills, and night sweats.
If you have been exposed to someone with TB, or have any of the signs or symptoms of disease, contact your health care provider about getting screened. Current screening tests available for TB testing include: the Tuberculin Skin Test (TST) and a blood test (IGRA). If you have been exposed to TB or have TB symptoms, ask your health care provider which test is best for you.
The time is now to “End TB!” For more information on resources offered by DHEC, visit our website at http://www.scdhec.gov/tb/ .