Tag Archives: tuberculosis

Remembering Dr. Richard Ballew: A legacy of service to TB control and public health

Photo above: Dr. Richard “Dick” Ballew (seated) served our agency and state for almost 50 years making a dramatic difference in the treatment and control of tuberculosis.

By Jim Beasley

Few people exemplify the traits of service and dedication as well as DHEC tuberculosis consultant Dr. Richard “Dick” Ballew.

Dr. Ballew died May 16 following a lengthy illness, leaving a notable legacy in the wake of nearly 50 years of service with DHEC.

After receiving his medical doctorate degree from the University of Tennessee, he served with the U.S. Public Health Service in South Carolina from 1958 until 1960, focusing his efforts on the treatment and control of sexually transmitted diseases. After an eight-year stint at an Alabama private practice, Dr. Ballew returned to South Carolina in 1968 as a DHEC clinical physician and medical director.

He then turned his eyes toward the agency’s efforts to fight tuberculosis in 1970 by holding TB clinics at the Lexington County Health Department. At the time, South Carolina experienced more than 600 cases of TB disease annually, placing a significant medical burden on the agency and state.

His interest in the disease grew, leading him to assume a full-time position as chief medical consultant to DHEC’s Division of Tuberculosis Control in 1990. Dr. Ballew oversaw diagnosis and treatment of an extraordinary number of TB cases as he conducted TB clinics in 37 of the state’s 46 counties. Through his work with the agency’s TB team, the incidence of the disease dropped to approximately 100 per year by his full retirement last year. TB control specialists around the country took note of these accomplishments, as did members of DHEC’s TB Control staff.

Dr. Ballew possessed wisdom from his years of experience, and he was always willing to share it with others through training clinics and consultations.

“He became the ‘go-to’ consultant for suspect TB cases and, of course, for proven TB cases as well,” said Dr. Eric Brenner, formerly of DHEC and now with the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health. “Aside from being a clinician par-excellence, Dr. Ballew was also a wonderful teacher, serving as instructor in TB courses for nurses and clinicians from around the state.

“During his 35 years in the TB program,” continued Dr. Brenner, “the state reported approximately 6,700 cases of this infectious illness, and a conservative estimate is that Dr. Ballew was personally responsible for the medical treatment of over a third of them.”

His dedication to battling disease could only be topped by his love for Nancy, his wife of 56 years.

“He loved his wife and family,” said Debra Ray, BSN, MPH, who worked alongside Dr. Ballew for almost 23 years in DHEC’s TB program. “He always referred to Mrs. Ballew as his ‘bride.'”

Dr. and Mrs. Ballew Dec 2015

Dr. Ballew accepts an award at his DHEC retirement party in December 2015.

Dr. Ballew retired from DHEC in 2000, the first time, leaving his full-time position as TB consultant with the agency. He would continue as a part-time consultant until eventually retiring, for a second time, in December 2015. His health would not allow him to reach his goal of 50 years with the agency. TB staff from across the state gathered in Columbia to honor the man who began serving this agency before many of them had been born.

“Dr. Ballew has worked extensively to eliminate TB disease, making South Carolina a healthier place,” said Basley Carlisle, director of DHEC’s Division of Tuberculosis Control. “Dr. Ballew will truly be missed.”

Very true. He will be missed by many.

“He was not only a compassionate, dedicated physician,” Ray said, “but also a wonderful friend.”

The time is now to ‘End TB!’

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/ .

 

Raising Awareness about Tuberculosis

By Cassandra Harris

Today is World TB Day, and an opportunity to raise awareness about Tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to prevent and treat this disease. Caused by a germ called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the TB germ is found primarily in the lungsbut can attack any part of the body.

Understanding TB

Spread through the air from one person to another, ​pulmonary TB can cause symptoms including a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm), weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever, and night sweats. When someone who is sick with TB coughs, speaks, laughs, or sneezes, people nearby may breathe TB germs into their lungs. Individuals cannot get TB by shaking someone’s hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes, or kissing.

With this stated, it is important to note that not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. There are two TB-related conditions: latent TB infection and TB disease (active TB). Without treatment for latent TB infection, approximately 5 to 10% of individuals infected with the germ develop the disease. The remaining 90% of the individuals with latent TB carry the bacteria for a lifetime without developing the disease. People with latent TB infection are not infectious and cannot spread TB bacteria to others.

Pervasive, 1/3 of the people worldwide are infected with TB. In South Carolina, approximately 150,000 are infected with the tuberculosis germ, with 112 active TB cases reported in 2013. The total number of reported active TB cases in South Carolina shrank to just 79 in 2014.

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While there is currently no approved vaccine for TB in the US, the good news is that TB is curable with a prescribed course of antibiotics.

DHEC’s Role In Contact Investigations

As part of our work to protect the public’s health, DHEC routinely conducts contact investigations for various communicable diseases, including TB. When alerted of a potential TB exposure, DHEC will complete a contact investigation, evaluation, and treatment if indicated for any individual that is infected with TB. During a contact investigation, trained health department staff determines which individuals have been exposed by visiting all the environments where the person with TB has been, and evaluates each site to determine how the air was circulated.

Recently, our staff was informed by a medical facility of a possible case of tuberculosis disease involving an individual at Conway High School.  Our staff took immediate action to thoroughly assess and manage the situation. Working closely with school officials, we were able to determine where others could potentially have been exposed, as well as which individuals were possibly exposed, and provide testing accordingly.

Thanks to the hard work of our staff, a total of 134 individuals received testing on March 13, 2015 and March 18, 2015. All of these test results are negative.

With the goal of preventing further exposure and potential spread of illness, we make every effort to test all individuals who were identified as at risk for possible exposure. We greatly appreciate all of the hard work of our staff, members of the school district, and individuals who participated in this contact investigation.

For more information about TB, go to http://www.scdhec.gov/tb.

World TB Day

By Jamie Shuster

CDC World TB Day

Today is World TB Day, which provides the CDC and health departments across the country with an opportunity to raise awareness about tuberculosis–related challenges and solutions we’re implementing to prevent and control TB.

Worldwide, the CDC estimates that 1 in 3 people have been infected by the germ that causes TB. About 10% of people infected with the TB germ will develop the disease at some point in their lives.

Here in South Carolina, we’re fortunate that TB disease is rare. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a dramatic drop in TB cases reported to DHEC. In 2013, there were 112 TB disease cases reported in South Carolina, which marks a sharp decline from the 233 cases reported in 2004.

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