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March 24, 2007

Illinois matches a record low for tuberculosis cases
First time foreign-born tuberculosis cases outnumber U.S.-born cases

SPRINGFIELD – In conjunction with World TB day, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, today announced the number of tuberculosis cases in Illinois decreased in 2006, matching the state record low in 2004.  A total of 569 tuberculosis cases were reported in 2006, compared with 596 in 2005.  The City of Chicago observed the largest decrease of 11.2 percent, from 329 cases in 2005 to 292 cases in 2006.  This decrease was largely among U.S.-born African Americans.

“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.  “By preventing the spread of infectious diseases, we are keeping communities healthy and improving the quality of life for people across the state.”

For the first time in Illinois’ reporting history, foreign-born tuberculosis cases outnumbered U.S.-born cases.  Almost 54 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 from 45 percent in 2005.

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 Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) focuses on finding tuberculosis cases and making sure they are treated promptly and completely.  IDPH also looks for those who have had close contact and been exposed to someone with tuberculosis for treatment if they are infected, although not necessarily sick.  These goals are achieved through four programs.

• Data – surveillance and collection of data to watch for trends and see which areas need more resources.
• Nurses – IDPH has three nurses which act as consultants for local tuberculosis programs across the state and help secure resources for treatment.
• Funding – IDPH awards approximately $100,000 a year in federal funds to counties with high incidence of tuberculosis to assist with treatment such as paying nurses to deliver medication to patients to make sure the full course is taken.
• Training and education – TB 101 for nurses in counties with low incidence, nurse case manager course, and physician update course.

The number of tuberculosis cases in the state for the last 10 years are: 1997, 974; 1998, 850; 1999, 825; 2000, 743; 2001, 707; 2002, 680; 2003, 633; 2004, 569; 2005, 596 and 2006, 569.

World TB Day is an annual event that commemorates the day when the tuberculosis bacillus was discovered.


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