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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Department of Health Recognizes March 24 as World TB Day 2015 Theme is: "Reach, Treat, Cure Everyone"

With the rate of active tuberculosis (TB) on a steady decline, Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd thanked public health workers for their efforts in the fight against the disease, but warned that only through continued public education and vigilance will New Jersey be able to continue its progress against this serious public health threat.

"TB cases in New Jersey have declined 68 percent since TB peaked in 1992 when there were 982 cases, with 308 TB cases reported last year," said Commissioner O'Dowd. "New Jersey has a world-class TB program and we are continuing our collaboration with physicians, hospitals, researchers and clinics to achieve the goal of eliminating TB in our lifetime."

While TB has been declining among residents born in the United States, the number of cases has been decreasing more slowly among foreign-born residents. In 2014, 81 percent of active TB cases were diagnosed in New Jersey's foreign-born residents. The higher incidence of disease in this group may reflect the growth of New Jersey's foreign-born population and the fact that this population often originates from areas where TB is endemic. According to the CDC, one third of the world's population is infected with TB. In 2012, more than nine million became sick with the disease and 1.4 million died. Worldwide, TB is a leading killer of people who are HIV-infected.

Counties reporting the highest numbers of newly diagnosed TB cases in 2014 were Middlesex (57 cases), Hudson (52), Essex (33), Bergen (29), Passaic (21), and Union (21).

In New Jersey, every person with TB is assigned a nurse case manager to supervise their care. Nearly all TB case-patients are placed on directly observed therapy to ensure they take all medication doses. This is necessary for successful treatment of the disease and to prevent drug-resistant TB strains from emerging. Nurse case managers also identify the person's close contacts and arrange for medical evaluation in order to eliminate or reduce the further spread of the disease.

If needed, complex TB cases may be referred to one of six regional specialty clinics. These clinics are located at University Hospital-Newark, the Hudson County Health Department, Morristown Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, the Middlesex County Health Department, and the Camden County Department of Health. Clinic physicians are experts in diagnosing and treating TB, and also consult with private physicians whose patients have complex medical issues.

World TB Day commemorates the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacteria that causes TB. The day is observed each year to raise awareness of TB-related problems and solutions and to support worldwide TB-control efforts.

CDC funds the Global TB Institute at Rutgers, which has been designated a Regional Training and Medical Consultation Center, serving the northeastern states. It offers state-of-the-art treatment, conducts research, and provides consultation, education and training to physicians and health officials. The New Jersey Medical School's Public Health Research Institute also offers sophisticated laboratory testing to quickly identify TB strains. This aids in patient treatment and in investigating cases that may be linked to the person ill with TB.

About TB

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by the bacteria of Mycobacterium tuberculosis that is spread from person to person through the air. The disease typically affects the lungs, but can affect the brain, kidney and spine.

TB bacteria become active when a person's immune system can't stop the bacteria from spreading and multiplying. Babies, young adults, the elderly, those with HIV and others with weak immune systems are at increased risk of contracting TB, including: people with cancer, severe kidney disease, low body weight and those who have undergone an organ transplant.

Symptoms of TB include a bad cough that lasts for more than two weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs). Other symptoms are weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever, and night sweats.

Treatment for TB includes taking many types of drugs concurrently that that work together to kill the bacteria. The regimen lasts at least six months, and medication must be taken even after the person feels well. Taking several drugs will do a better job of killing all of the bacteria and also prevent the bacteria from becoming drug resistant. TB is almost always cured with proper treatment.

For more on New Jersey's TB program and information about the disease, please visit: http://www.nj.gov/health/tb/index.shtml. For more on World TB Day, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/tb/events/worldtbday/default.htm

Health professionals may call the TB program at (609) 826-4878 to learn more about consultations, referrals and accessing supplemental public health services for TB patients.

Last Reviewed: 3/23/2015