While the rate of tuberculosis cases in California has fallen over
the past decade, health care providers are reminding the public to guard
against the tough-to-detect and potentially fatal illness.
A group of public health care representatives from the state and
multiple Bay Area counties gathered in San Jose on Thursday morning to commemorate World TB Day and raise awareness about the disease.
Tuberculosis is an airborne bacterial lung infection that can
remain dormant in the body for years, according to the Santa Clara County
Public Health Department. Once the TB infection becomes active, the infected
person is contagious.
"It can spread from a relatively small number of people," said
Charles Crane, Medical Director for Contra Costa County Health Services' TB
Although TB is curable and preventable, the often neglected disease poses a great risk to those with health conditions that predispose them to the lung disease, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes and others with weak immune systems, according to Crane.
Last year, there were 181 cases of active TB reported in Santa
Clara County alone. Twenty-six of those patients died, according to the
county health department.
Nonetheless, the number of TB cases statewide continues to decline
each year, California TB Controller Dr. Jennifer Flood said today.
"This past year, we observed the lowest case count ever reported
in California with 2,317 cases," Flood said. "While we have so much to be
proud of in the state, the work remaining is really sobering."
Bay Area residents have a greater chance of becoming infected than
those in other areas of the country since the region is a global hub, and
since many area residents travel to countries with high TB case counts,
according to the Santa Clara public health department.
Children and the elderly are especially at risk, as are millions
of uninsured Californians, Crane said.
"We cannot allow barriers to care to result in no treatment for
TB, even if we have to pay for it," he said.
Crane and other doctors today warned that budget cuts to federal,
state and county TB program funding could cause the number of cases to soar,
diverting massive amounts of taxpayer dollars to treat TB outbreaks.
"Now is the time to keep funding programs that fight TB," said
Margo Sidener, CEO of Breath California of the Bay Area, in a statement. "We
have made good progress in recent years, and if we lose our public health
infrastructure because of budget cuts, we will pay more in future healthcare
-Bay City News