LAS VEGAS – Each year, March 24 is recognized as World TB Day. It is the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced he identified M. tuberculosis, the bacteria responsible for the disease. According to the World Health Organization, 10.4 million people worldwide were ill with TB in 2015, and 1.8 million people died from the disease. TB, an ancient disease, was once the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. It is now treatable and curable. For more information about TB, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) site TB Basic Facts. The CDC also has stories from real patients on its website: CDC TB Personal Stories.
In Clark County, there were 47 cases of active TB reported in 2016 or 83.9 percent of cases in the state. The number was down from 72 in 2015, which accounted for 84.7 percent of statewide cases. At any given time, there are approximately 40-60 people undergoing treatment for active TB in Clark County under the supervision of the Health District. In addition, individuals who have latent TB infection — those who are infected with TB but who are not sick or contagious — are also receiving treatment from the Health District to prevent them from developing active TB disease. Active TB disease occurs when an individual has symptoms, is sick with TB, and can spread TB to others.
The Southern Nevada Health District is the leading provider of TB services in Clark County. The TB Treatment and Control Clinic staff works to stop the transmission of TB in the community by ensuring people with active TB disease are appropriately treated, and those who are exposed to TB are evaluated and treated if necessary to prevent the further spread of the disease. The Health District’s active contact investigation programs and its community partnerships have been instrumental in avoiding a sudden surge in newly reported cases, allowing the rate of active cases to remain steady over time. Information about the TB Treatment and Control Clinic is available in the following video featuring Dr. Joe Iser, the Health District’s Chief Health Officer: https://youtu.be/oianBo4ZTHY
Nationwide, there were 9,557 cases of TB in 2015. According to the CDC, the 2015 TB rate in the United States was 3.0 cases per 100,000 people, a slight increase from 2014 with a case rate of 2.9 cases per 100,000. The increase in case counts comes after yearly declines between 1993 and 2014, but they have remained relatively stable. In contrast, the rate was 46.6 cases per 100,000 people in 1955.
The Southern Nevada Health District works with federal and state health officials, local agencies, and national advocacy groups to identify active cases for treatment as well as their close contacts for preventive care, and it provides education and expert consultation on infection control practices, screening procedures, and case reporting.
World TB Day is an opportunity to educate the community about an important component of public health and to encourage health care providers to consider tuberculosis when they treat patients with symptoms that could be TB. This critical diagnosis helps to get patients into treatment quickly and limits the spread to the patient’s contacts.