TB or not TB. Since early 2021, doctors and public health officials in Washington state may have been asking these kinds of questions much more frequently. And that is not good. The state had 199 reported cases of TB, which is short for tuberculosis, in 2021 and has already had 70 reported cases just four months into 2022. In fact, according to an announcement from the Washington State Department of Health on April 28 , the state has been having its largest TB outbreak in the last 20 years.
Last year’s TB total represented a 22% jump from the previous year. Reported TB cases had actually decreased in 2020 compared to 2019. However, before you say “yes, 2020”, keep in mind that 2020 was when something called the Covid-19 pandemic began. This meant that many TB prevention services and clinics may have been closed or understaffed. Also, many people may have avoided health care settings. As a result, people infected with the bacteria that cause tuberculosis mycobacterial tuberculosis it may not have been diagnosed and therefore spread the bacteria without even knowing it. That, in turn, could have increased the number of new cases, in Coldplay’s words.
The announcement quoted Washington Chief Scientific Officer Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, as saying, “It has been 20 years since we have seen a cluster of TB cases like this. The pandemic is likely to have contributed to the increase in cases and the outbreak in at least one prison facility.”
Also included in the announcement was a statement from Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) Medical Director MaryAnn Curl, MD: “Testing of staff and our incarcerated population at Stafford Creek Correctional Center, which is How were these cases found? We will continue to communicate with staff, their incarcerated population, and their families as appropriate.”
A key will be not to “air” on the side of Mycobacterial tuberculosis. You can get the bacteria by breathing in air that is contaminated by an infected person who is coughing or sneezing. TB is not as contagious as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Therefore, prolonged close contact is usually required for transmission to occur. However, someone with active TB should remain in isolation and people should wear N95 masks when in the same room as the person.
Tuberculosis usually develops into a pulmonary history with the bacteria wreaking havoc on your lungs. Nevertheless, mycobacterial tuberculosis it can also affect and damage other parts of your body, such as your kidneys, spine, and brain. It usually takes about three to nine weeks from initial infection to the appearance of a lung lesion or a person’s TB skin test to come back positive. Not everyone who becomes infected will necessarily develop active TB and get sick right away. Some people will have latent TB infections (LTBI) in which the bacteria are in your body, but you are not infectious and do not show any symptoms. However, latent infections can eventually develop into active TB disease when not treated properly. When active TB is not treated properly, you can die from the disease. And death from tuberculosis would not be good
Common symptoms of active TB include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or more, chest pain, and coughing up blood. You may also feel weak, lose your appetite and lose weight, or experience night sweats. Symptoms alone are not enough to determine if you have TB, as these symptoms may have other causes. For example, bronchitis, lung cancer, bronchiectasis, other types of pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are some of the other things that can cause hemoptysis, which is the medical term for coughing up blood. Similarly, a variety of other issues can lead to excessive night sweats, including alcohol use, anxiety, autoimmune disorders, other types of infections, lymphoma, hyperthyroidism, and wearing sweaters to sleep. Diagnosis of a TB infection requires a skin or blood test. Diagnosing an active TB lung infection involves checking your sputum or lung secretions for the presence of Mycobacterial tuberculosis.
Treatment for LTBI involves some combination of isoniazid, rifapentine, and rifampin for three to nine months, depending on which of these drugs is used. Treatment of active TB can take four, six, or nine months, depending on the drug regimen used. These medications are not like pizza. Once you start them, you shouldn’t leave any leftovers. It is important to finish any regimen you start. Otherwise, you may not get rid of all the mycobacterial tuberculosis and worse, it could fuel the development of antibiotic-resistant TB strains.
The key to controlling this outbreak will be testing all close contacts of people infected with TB, as well as those who are at risk of exposure, such as people who live or work in homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and parts of the world where tuberculosis is more common. And then quickly isolate those who may have active TB and treat everyone who is infected. This may be easier said than done, since the words “public health” and “swimming with resources” are not often seen together. Instead, you’re likely to be much more likely to see words like “public health” and “what decade is that FAX machine from” together.