March 24 is World Tuberculosis Day and the Illinois Department of Public Health is encouraging residents to learn more about the disease to help stop its spread.
Despite having a record low number of tuberculosis cases in 2012, the state still ranks sixth in the nation for the highest number of cases and the disease is still prevalent worldwide.
"Although Illinois experienced a record low number of new tuberculosis cases during 2012, the increase in cases worldwide can mean more cases here," IDPH Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said. "It is important to raise awareness of TB and for people to know how the disease is spread, what the symptoms are and how to treat it. Educating yourself about tuberculosis and raising awareness in others will help stop the spread of TB."
Last year, 347 cases of active tuberculosis were reported in Illinois, down from 359 cases in 2011. The reduction in cases can be attributed to Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) program that ensures those with the disease fully complete their medication regimen.
The majority of tuberculosis cases in Illinois are from people who were born in foreign countries where the disease is common, like Mexico, India, and the Philippines. Sixty-nine percent of the cases in Illinois last year were among people born in foreign countries.
Tuberculosis is contagious and can be life-threatening. It is transmitted from person to person through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those infected are most likely to spread the disease to people they see everyday, like relatives and co-workers. If you've been around someone infected with tuberculosis, you should see your doctor for testing.
The disease can affect any part of the body, but usually affects the lungs. Symptoms can include fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. When it attacks the lungs, symptoms can include a persistent cough that sometimes produces blood and chest pain.
Taking several drugs from six to twelve months can treat the disease, but those infected must finish the medicine and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. Failure to do so could allow the disease to return and in some cases the re-established infection can't be treated with antibiotics. Tuberculosis that is drug resistant is harder and more expensive to treat.
For more information on tuberculosis, click here.
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