Local health officials field calls about tuberculosis

Published 2:24 pm Thursday, January 21, 2016

With a new case of tuberculosis confirmed in Perry County on Thursday, local health officials encourage residents in Chilton County to be aware of the disease.

“Our phone has been ringing a lot with people who are asking questions,” Chilton County Health Department clinic supervisor Ludean Hicks said. “I think there is some concern from people who live in Chilton County who might have traveled to Perry County recently or who might work in Perry County.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health confirmed one additional case of tuberculosis disease in Marion, Perry County on Thursday.

This brought the total number of cases this year of TB to 27.

Of these, 21 people are residents of Perry County, according to a release form the ADPH.

“TB disease is a serious condition, but is treatable with medication. People with TB disease are considered infectious and may spread TB germs to others if not treated,” according to the release.

Forty-nine patients have tested positive for latent TB infection in Perry County since screening began on Jan. 11.

Thirty-seven of the patients have already had chest X-rays read and will be started on preventive medicine.

These people are not infectious since they do not have the disease, according to the release.

To date, 1,058 resident of Perry County have been tested for latent TB infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TB is a disease caused by bacteria that is spread through the air from person to person.

If not treated properly, TB can be fatal.

People infected with TB bacteria who are not sick may still need treatment to prevent TB disease from developing in the future.

“There is no vaccine against TB,” Hicks said. “It is a method screening. Individuals have to be in contact with a positive case to pick up the germ. It is a respiratory disease so you can’t get it by touching or through blood; you have to breathe it in. If someone has TB and they cough or sneeze around others, then they have exposed them to TB.”

According to the CDC, TB bacteria commonly grows in the lungs and symptoms of TB can include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, pain in the chest, and coughing up blood or mucus from deep inside the lungs.

Other symptoms of TB could include weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever and sweating at night.

“There is a very important difference between latent TB infection and TB disease,” Pam Barrett of the Division of TB Control said in a release. “Persons with latent TB infection cannot spread the germ to other people. These persons have a positive TB skin test or a positive blood test for TB. They developed a positive test from being in close contact with a person who had TB disease. Without treatment, about 5 to 10 percent of persons with latent TB infection will develop TB disease at some time in their lives.”

Screening, testing and follow-ups will continue every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Perry County until Jan. 29.

The Perry County Health Department is currently offering payments for individuals willing to be tested.

Individuals can receive $20 for screening for TB, another $20 for returning after three days to get the result, another $20 for keeping an appointment to get a chest X-ray if it is recommended, and an additional $100 to be a patient if it is recommended that he or she take medication and treatment is completed.

Because of the high rate of TB infection in Marion, Perry County Health Department is the only health department offering money to patients for TB screening and treatment.

“For people who live in this county who might have been exposed to someone in Perry County with TB, they can call us and we will be glad to answer any questions they might have,” Hicks said.

Hicks said there has not been a positive case of TB confirmed in Chilton County in three or four years.

“It is very good for this county,” Hicks said. “Usually, if there is someone who tests positive, we are made aware and we pick that person up and begin treating them. I’m just hoping we will not have any positive cases turn up in this county.”

For more information about the disease, call (205) 755-1287.