PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
March 22, 2019

Shereef Elnahal

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

New Jersey Department of Health Recognizes March 24 as World TB Day

U.S. theme for World TB Day 2019 is “It’s Time”

With the rate of active tuberculosis (TB) continuing to decline nationally, New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal applauds public health workers for their efforts in preventing the disease and its spread. Through ongoing public education and vigilance, New Jersey will be able to continue its progress against this public health threat.

“Last year, 291 New Jersey residents were diagnosed with active TB. This represents a 70 percent decrease in cases since TB peaked in New Jersey in 1992, when there were 984 cases,” Commissioner Elnahal said. “We are continuing our collaboration with physicians, hospitals, researchers and clinics to achieve the goal of eliminating TB in our lifetime.”

March 24, 2019 marks the 37th annual World Tuberculosis Day and the fourth year of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) five-year "Unite to End TB" campaign. It 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 support worldwide TB control efforts. The New Jersey Department of Health joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WHO and many other partners in promoting public awareness about TB, which remains an epidemic in many parts of the world.

TB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and is spread from person to person through the air. It typically affects the lungs but can affect the brain, kidney and spine. These 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 those with weakened 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. 

TB is one of the world’s deadliest diseases and is a leading killer of people who are HIV infected, according to the CDC. One third of the world’s population is infected with TB. In 2017, about 10.4 million people around the world became sick with TB disease, and there were about 1.7 million TB-related deaths worldwide.

The Department of Health conducts statewide TB surveillance and provides financial, technical and material support to local health agencies across the state to prevent and control TB. Support provided includes:

  • Grants and technical assistance to county and local health agencies to support TB control
  • Lab services
  • Medications for TB patients, contacts and other high-risk persons
  • Transportation for TB patients to regional TB clinics when no other options are available
  • Interpreter services for non-English speaking patients
  • Supplies for TB testing of contacts and other high-risk groups
  • Rent assistance for TB case-patients
  • Federally-funded bus passes, and gas and gift cards for patients who adhere to therapy

Last year, the Department granted $3.3 million in state and federal dollars to support six regional TB specialty clinics. These clinics are located at Rutgers, The State 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. They also consult with private physicians whose patients have complex medical issues, including drug-resistant TB and adverse events related to TB therapy.

Other TB Resources in New Jersey

CDC funds the Global TB Institute at Rutgers which has been designated a Center of Excellence for training and medical consultation, 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 offers sophisticated laboratory testing to quickly identify TB strains. This aids in patient treatment and investigation of cases that may be linked to an infectious TB case-patient.

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 on World TB Day, visit http://www.cdc.gov/tb/events/worldtbday/default.htm.

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

Follow New Jersey Health Commissioner Elnahal on Twitter.

Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter at twitter.com/NJDeptofHealth and on Facebook at facebook.com/NJDeptofHealth.

Last Reviewed: 3/22/2019