Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
March 23, 1999
Dennis McGowan, DHSS
Tom Capezzuto, UMDNJ
TRENTON -- The number of people with active tuberculosis in New Jersey is at its lowest level since 1992, but more interventions need to be taken to control the disease, said Health and Senior Services Acting Commissioner Leah Ziskin.
After peaking in 1992, active TB cases statewide have declined each year for the past six years. There were 640 cases in 1998, down 11 percent from the year before and 27 percent from 1992. The number of cases among children has also dropped from 73 in 1992 to 42 in 1998.
The decline can be attributed in large part to the expanded use of Directly Observed Therapy, in which outreach workers make arrangements to observe the patient taking his or her medication until the treatment is completed. Local health departments and TB control agencies have expanded their use of this therapy over the last few years.
Last year a school-based Directly Observed Therapy program -- sponsored by New Jersey Medical School National Tuberculosis Center at UMDNJ, Hudson County Chest Clinic, and Hudson County's 12 school districts -- was implemented in that county. The program serves a small number of cases who are not infectious as well as approximately 300 students who have TB infection without disease. This reflects a national focus on the treatment of TB infection as the number of individuals with active TB declines.
There are also 37 chest clinics approved by the department to offer a full range of TB services, including medical evaluation and treatment. The clinics, which are operated by hospitals or local health departments, last year served 16,000 patients who made more than 65,000 visits.
"Too often, people being treated for TB forget to take their medication or stop taking it when their symptoms subside," Ziskin said. "Directly Observed Therapy is the best way to ensure individuals complete the full 6- to 12-month course of treatment and prevent the spread of this disease which afflicts so many people worldwide."
"Tuberculosis is a global problem. We will never control TB in this country until we control it worldwide, since infectious diseases do not stop at the border," said Dr. Lee Reichman, executive director of the New Jersey Medical School National Tuberculosis Center at UMDNJ. "TB is preventable and treatable. We can't let down our guard."
The World Health Organization is marking Wednesday, March 24 as World TB Day to focus worldwide attention on this problem. WHO estimates that one-third of the world's population is infected with the TB bacteria, and that more people will die of TB this year than in any other year in history.