March 24, 2006
State public health director warns of slight increase of tuberculosis cases in Illinois
Prevention and control measures against tuberculosis remain a top priority
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – In conjunction with World TB day, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, today announced the number of tuberculosis cases in Illinois increased slightly in 2005, after the state saw a record low in 2004. A total of 596 tuberculosis cases were reported in 2005, compared with 569 in 2004. This marks the first increase in tuberculosis cases in Illinois in nine years.
“Tuberculosis is still a significant health threat and the public health and medical communities must maintain the ongoing efforts to better identify and treat people with infectious tuberculosis,” said Dr. Whitaker. “We must continue to provide prevention and control measures against tuberculosis to reverse this slight increase. By preventing the spread of infectious diseases, we are keeping communities healthy and improving the quality of life for people across the state.”
Almost 45 percent of the tuberculosis cases in Illinois are among individuals who were born in foreign countries where TB is common, such as Mexico, India and the Philippines. The number of foreign-born cases increased to 266 in 2005, compared to 230 in 2004. This is one of the reasons the number of cases in Illinois increased slightly for 2005.
A proven strategy used by local health departments to combat the disease is “directly observed therapy,” in which public health workers monitor tuberculosis patients to ensure they take the correct drugs consistently and appropriately. This labor-intensive practice has received much of the credit for reducing the number of cases in the past.
The following chart shows the number of tuberculosis cases in Illinois for the past two years.
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.
Tuberculosis is usually curable, but 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 number of tuberculosis cases in the state for the last 10 years are: 1996, 1,060; 1997, 974; 1998, 850; 1999, 825; 2000, 743; 2001, 707; 2002, 680; 2003, 633; 2004, 569 and 2005, 596.
World TB Day is an annual event that commemorates the day when the tuberculosis bacillus was discovered.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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