The Norwalk Department of Health joins health officials worldwide to recognize March 24 as World TB Day, a day to raise awareness that tuberculosis (TB) is still an epidemic in much of the world. TB kills almost 1.5 million people each year, mostly in developing countries.
TB is one of the world’s deadliest preventable diseases. It is spread when someone with TB disease expels tiny particles of the TB bacterium by coughing, laughing, or sneezing, and those particles are inhaled by another person and enter that person’s lungs and cause infection.
Along with the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH) and area health care providers, the Norwalk Health Department works to prevent and control TB in our community by monitoring for disease, managing cases to make sure treatment is completed, and investigating and treating people who have been exposed to an active TB case. The Health Department also provides Mantoux TB skin testing upon request for a nominal fee and provides a Latent TB Infection Control Program for those who have no insurance.
In the United States, public health efforts have reduced the incidence of TB. In fact, the rate of TB disease among people born in the United States is lower than ever. Also, Connecticut has one of the lowest rates of TB disease among all states, with only 90 to 100 cases reported annually in recent years. For the past decade, Norwalk has averaged 4.4 TB cases per year.
TB is a complex disease to understand and manage. Two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection and TB disease. A person with latent TB infection does not feel ill and cannot spread TB to others. However, some people with latent TB infection go on to develop TB disease. According to the CT DPH, one third of the world’s population is currently infected with latent TB. Of these people, 5% to 10% will become sick with active TB disease at some time in their life. Some people are more likely to progress from latent TB infection to TB disease, including people living with HIV, people recently exposed to someone with active TB disease, and people with diabetes or other chronic diseases. Drug-resistant TB (disease that is resistant to the two drugs most commonly used for TB treatment), is becoming more common and presents special challenges for treatment and cure.
World TB Day is recognized on March 24, which marks the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch, a German physician and scientist, presented his discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB. Dr. Koch later received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work.
For more information about this global epidemic go to www.stoptb.org or visit the CT DPH TB Control Program website at www.ct.gov/dph/tb or 860-509-7722.