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March 24, 2010

State Public Health Director Announces Tuberculosis Cases Hit Record Low Despite Recent Outbreak
Illinois still ranks 5th in the nation for highest number of TB cases

SPRINGFIELD – In recognition of World Tuberculosis Day, Dr. Damon T. Arnold, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), today announced an all time low for the number of new tuberculosis (TB) cases in Illinois.  Illinois is joining in the World Tuberculosis Day global campaign, “TB elimination: Together We Can!” and Governor Pat Quinn has issued a proclamation declaring March 24, 2010 as World TB Day in Illinois to raise awareness that the fight against tuberculosis is not over.

“Despite seeing the lowest number of new tuberculosis cases in Illinois during 2009, we’ve already experienced a tuberculosis outbreak in the state this year,” Dr. Arnold said.  “Although most of us don’t think about tuberculosis much anymore thanks to the advances in medicine, this outbreak reminds us that TB is still circulating in Illinois.  I urge all citizens to increase their awareness of tuberculosis and to join the global effort to stop the spread of this disease.”

The Kane County Health Department and Illinois Department of Public Health continue to investigate a tuberculosis outbreak at a homeless shelter in Kane County.  To date, lab results confirm seven shelter clients contracted TB.  Both health departments are following-up with clients, staff and volunteers at the shelter to ensure testing and treatment is done.

Tuberculosis is a contagious and potentially life-threatening disease that is transmitted from person to person by tiny airborne particles of bacteria.  While it can affect any part of the body, such as the brain, kidneys or spine, tuberculosis usually affects the lungs.  General symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats.  When tuberculosis attacks the lungs, symptoms can include a persistent cough that sometimes produces blood and chest pains.

In 2009, 418 cases of active tuberculosis were reported in Illinois, a decrease from 469 cases reported in 2008.  However, reports show Illinois ranks fifth for the highest number of tuberculosis cases in the nation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

Illinois is again following the national trend in that the majority of TB cases are among individuals who were born in foreign countries where TB is common, such as Mexico, India and the Philippines. In 2009, 62 percent of tuberculosis cases in Illinois were foreign-born, up from 61 percent the previous year.

While tuberculosis is usually curable, a person with the disease must faithfully adhere to prescribed drug therapy for six months or longer.  Many patients comply with the strict drug regimen at first, but some stop taking their anti-TB medication after they start to feel better.  Failure to follow the therapy for the full length of time prescribed may allow the tuberculosis to return.  In some cases, the re-established infection cannot be treated with the usual antibiotics.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, working in conjunction with local health departments, focuses on finding tuberculosis cases and making sure people are treated promptly and completely.  IDPH also looks for people who have had close contact and been exposed to someone with tuberculosis to ensure treatment if they are infected, although not necessarily sick.  

For more information on tuberculosis, log onto the Illinois Department of Public Health Web site at www.idph.state.il.us.


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