March 24 is World TB (Tuberculosis) Day. It's a good time to remember that although tuberculosis might be forgotten by most, it is not gone. During 2016, 71 cases of latent or active tuberculosis were identified in McHenry County and followed by McHenry County Department of Health.
In the early 1900s, it killed one out of every seven people living in the United States and Europe. Even though that is no longer the case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that today about a third of the world's population is living with tuberculosis. Statistics from the CDC show that in 2015 there were almost 10,000 tuberculosis cases in the United States and worldwide, 10.4 million people became sick with tuberculosis and there were 1.8 million tuberculosis-related deaths.
You cannot get tuberculosis from surfaces such as clothes, drinking glasses, shaking hands or eating utensils. It is a bacteria that is spread through the air when someone with active tuberculosis of the lungs or throat coughs, laughs, sings, or sneezes. People near the sick person can breathe in the germs. These germs can live in your body without making you sick. This is called latent tuberculosis. This means you have inactive (sleeping) tuberculosis germs in your body and they cannot be passed on. However, if they become active and multiply, you will get sick with the disease and can spread the tuberculosis germ.
Most often, tuberculosis bacteria grow in the lungs causing symptoms such as a bad cough, chest pain and coughing up blood or sputum. Other symptoms are often weakness, fatigue, weight loss, chills, fever and night sweats. Active tuberculosis is treated by taking antibiotics for 6 to 9 months. Even though people can feel better after a few weeks of treatment, they can develop multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) if they stop taking antibiotics early. MDR-TB takes longer to treat with more expensive drugs which have more side effects. Extremely drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) develops when MDR-TB second-line drugs are also misused or mismanaged.
In 2015, one case of XDR TB was identified in McHenry County, requiring that the patient be transferred to and treated by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland. About three to four cases of XDR TB are reported each year in the United States.
McHenry County Department of Health conducts contact investigation and case management for tuberculosis cases, offers testing and provides treatment, if needed, to those at high risk for developing tuberculosis. The department's TB Clinic in Woodstock makes available chest X-rays, diagnostic studies, laboratory services and medication to any person who works or resides in McHenry County. "Directly observed therapy" (DOT) provided to active cases assures that patients take their medication as prescribed for cure and to prevent the development of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which is a growing international threat.