March 24, 1999
ILLINOIS TUBERCULOSIS CASES AT RECORD LOW
SPRINGFIELD, IL The number of tuberculosis cases reported in Illinois in 1998 dropped 13 percent from the previous year to an all-time low, the Illinois Department of Public Health today reported.
Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, announced there were 850 cases reported in 1998 compared with 974 in 1997, the biggest one-year decline in cases since 1983. The 1997 case total was the state's previous low.
"We have made great strides in the past two years as caseloads have dropped by more than 20 percent," Dr. Lumpkin said. "However, there remains a need for vigilance and cooperation between the medical community and public health authorities to continue the progress that has been made in order to bring this disease under control."
The number of deaths due to tuberculosis also reached an all-time low with 53 recorded in 1997, the most recent year for which statistics are available. The previous low was 63 in 1996. At the turn of the century, tuberculosis claimed nearly 7,000 lives in Illinois.
Tuberculosis is a contagious and potentially life-threatening disease that is transmitted from person to person through the air. 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 and, when it attacks the lungs, a persistent cough, sometimes producing blood and chest pains.
There was a resurgence of tuberculosis cases in the mid-1980s, particularly among those who were HIV-infected and had suppressed immune systems. Since reaching a peak of 1,653 cases in 1982 the number of TB cases leveled off through the 1980s and 1990s until significant declines were reported in 1997 and 1998.
Tuberculosis is curable as long as the person infected completes the prescribed drug therapy twice a week for at least six months. Patients often comply with the strict drug regimen until they feel better and then, as many has half, quit taking the antibiotics. When that happens, tuberculosis can reemerge in a more drug-resistant strain.
One successful strategy utilized by local health departments to combat the disease has been "directly observed therapy," in which public health workers watch tuberculosis patients take all the required antibiotics. This labor-intensive practice has received much of the credit for reducing the number of cases.
Increased federal funding has allowed more areas of the state to provide directly observed therapy and better diagnostic tools have been developed to identify drug-resistant strains.
Geographically, there were 473 cases in Chicago in 1998, down 21 percent from 599 in 1997. In Cook County and the five collar counties (DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will), there were 730 cases in 1998 compared with 855 in 1997.
One area in which Illinois saw an increase in tuberculosis cases was among individuals living in the state who were born in foreign countries. Foreign-born cases have increased from 172 cases in 1994 to 225 in 1997 and 236 in 1998.
Illinois' numbers were released today in conjunction with World TB Day, an annual event that commemorates the date when the TB bacillus was discovered.
Illinois Tuberculosis Cases by County, 1988-1998
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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