March 24, 1998
TUBERCULOSIS CASES FALL TO
LOWEST LEVEL IN ILLINOIS HISTORY
SPRINGFIELD, IL -- For the first time in more than a century, the number of tuberculosis cases reported in Illinois in a year has dropped below 1,000, Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, today announced.
Dr. Lumpkin said there were 974 cases recorded in 1997, an 8.1 percent decline from the previous year. The number of deaths due to tuberculosis also has reached an all-time low with 63 reported in 1996, the most recent year for which statistics are available. The previous low was 66 deaths in 1995.
Eighty years ago, there were more than 15,000 cases of tuberculosis in Illinois and 8,579 people died from the disease. At the turn of the century, 6,786 people in Illinois died from TB and 5,698 died in 1890.
"This is a public health success made possible by the continued partnership of federal, state and local health departments," Dr. Lumpkin said. "Despite this good news, however, we should not forget the lessons we learned in the 1980s when we let our guard down and TB came back in a form more deadly than before."
In the 1980s, with the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there was an increasing number of HIV-positive individuals susceptible to TB disease and health departments were ill equipped to respond to the challenges posed by the emergence of multi-drug resistant TB, Dr. Lumpkin said.
Beginning in 1993, the federal government began providing additional resources to help bring TB back under control. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spending on prevention and control of TB increased from about $45 million in 1992 to $145 million in 1997. Through this additional funding, local and state health departments have been able to better detect and treat persons with active TB and those with latent infection.
Ongoing efforts to control and prevent TB include expanded use of directly observed therapy, international collaboration and the development of diagnostic tools to better identify drug-resistance.
Directly observed therapy, which calls for public health workers to watch TB patients swallow all required anti-TB drugs, has proven to be one of the most effective tools. Curing TB calls for those infected to take two to four drugs, three times a week, for at least six months. Patients tend to comply with the drug regimen for a while but, once they feel better, some quit taking the antibiotics. When that happens, TB can reemerge in a more drug-resistant strain.
Geographically, there were 599 tuberculosis cases in Chicago in 1997, down 10.5 percent from 669 in 1996. In Cook County and the five collar counties (Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage and Will), there were 855 TB cases in 1997, compared with 949 in 1996.
One area where Illinois is seeing an increase in TB cases is among individuals living in the state who were born in foreign countries. Foreign-born cases have increased from 15.4 percent (172) of the Illinois cases in 1994 to 23.1 percent in 1997 (225).
"TB is not just a problem in Illinois or the United States; it is a global problem," Dr. Lumpkin said. "International collaboration is necessary, as it was in the fight against smallpox, to eliminate TB."
The number of tuberculosis cases in the state for the last 10 years are 1988, 1,079; 1989, 1,113; 1990, 1,118; 1991, 1,192; 1992, 1,270; 1993, 1,235; 1994, 1,115; 1995, 1,024; 1996, 1,060; and 1997, 974.
Tuberculosis is a contagious and potentially life-threatening disease transmitted through the air. While it can affect any part of the body, such as the brain, kidneys or spine, TB usually affects the lungs. The general symptoms of TB include feeling sick or weak, weight loss, fever and night sweats. TB of the lungs causes the general symptoms plus coughing, sometimes producing blood and chest pain. Other symptoms depend on the part of the body that is affected.
TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with TB disease of the lungs or throat cough or sneeze, they can put TB germs in the air. Then other people who breathe in the air containing these germs can become infected.
Illinois Tuberculosis Cases by County, 1988-1997
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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