With the rate of active tuberculosis beginning to level off nationally, Acting Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett lauded public health workers for their efforts in the fight against the disease, but warned that only through sustained public education and vigilance will New Jersey be able to continue its progress against this serious public health threat.
“Last year, 326 New Jersey residents were diagnosed with active TB. This represents a 66.8 percent decrease in cases since TB peaked in New Jersey in 1992, when there were 982 cases,” Acting Commissioner Bennett said. “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.”
New Jersey has seen a significant reduction in cases of active TB since the early 1990s. However, 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 2015, 81.6 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 fact that this population often originates from areas where TB is endemic.
Counties reporting the highest numbers of newly diagnosed TB cases in 2015 were Middlesex (53 cases), Hudson (51), Essex (39), Bergen (35), and Union (24).
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. 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 Memorial Hospital, Somerset Medical Center, 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 annually to raise awareness of TB-related problems and solutions, and to support worldwide TB-control efforts.
According to the CDC, one third of the world’s population is infected with TB. In 2014, more than 9 million became sick with the disease and 1.4 million died. Worldwide, TB is a leading killer of people who are HIV-infected.
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 investigating cases that may be linked to the ill person.
Tuberculosis (TB) 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 cannot 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 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 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.
TB infection can be detected through a specific skin test or by drawing blood.
For more information about New Jersey’s TB program and information about the disease, visit http://www.nj.gov/health/tb/index.shtml. For more information about World TB Day, 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.
For more information about TB, visit the department’s web site at http://www.nj.gov/health/tb/index.shtml.
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