On Monday, March 24, the global fight against TB will be observed through World TB Day. The United States has had a steady decline in active disease and deaths due to tuberculosis. Oklahoma has mirrored the national trend. However, officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health Acute Disease Service say there is room for improvement. In 2007, four Oklahomans died as a result of TB.
Most people who are infected with TB are not sick, but carry the bacteria in a dormant state. This is known as latent TB infection and may never pose a threat to a person's health. Last year about 3,000 Oklahomans were diagnosed with latent TB infection.
The danger to public health comes when a person's immune system cannot stop the TB bacteria from multiplying. Soon, the infection is in an active disease state and potentially contagious. People with this type of condition are said to have active TB disease. In 2007, 149 cases of active TB were identified and treated in Oklahoma.
Health officials say TB usually affects the lungs. The disease is spread from person to person when someone with pulmonary or laryngeal TB coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings, propelling the TB bacteria into the air. People who share the same air space with this person may breathe in the bacteria and become infected.
Symptoms of active TB disease can include persistent cough, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. Doctors say prompt diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent further spread of the infection and diminish the duration and extent of disease.
Officials say all four of the TB deaths in Oklahoma last year were due to a TB bacteria that are curable when treated with standard TB drugs.
For more information about TB, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health's website or call them at (405) 271-4060.
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