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Tuberculosis rate in county nearly twice national rate

As the number of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the United States declined to an all-time low in 2009, King County saw a rise in TB cases, and continues to see rates of active TB cases nearly double that of the United States as a whole, reflecting the ongoing challenge of controlling TB in a global community.

The number of people diagnosed with active TB in King County rose to 130 in 2009, from 121 cases in 2008; the county rate of 6.8 per 100,000 people compares to the national rate of 3.8 per 100,000. More than 80 percent of active TB cases in King County were born outside the United States, primarily in Southeast Asia and India, East Africa and Central America.

Globally, TB is an ongoing epidemic that infects one-third of the world’s population and kills two million people worldwide every year.

“King County is not immune from the global TB epidemic.” said Dr. David Fleming, director and public health officer for Public Health. “We are doing the best we can to hold back the spread of TB, but it has been challenging given the program cuts we’ve had to make over the past several years in this difficult budget climate.”

Because of budget cuts over the past two years, the TB Control Program has reduced staff and now limits services to the highest priority cases and contacts. Multi-drug resistant forms of the disease cost approximately $250,000 per person to cure.

“We can’t let down our guard,” said Dr. Masa Narita, TB Control Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County. “TB is curable and preventable, but controlling it takes ongoing work.”

• Approximately 100,000 people in King County have latent, or dormant, TB infection. While not contagious now, they could develop TB in the future and potentially infect others.

• 18 people (13 percent) treated for active TB were resistant to at least one TB medication.

For more information, see the 2009 Annual Report on Tuberculosis for King County at www.kingcounty.gov/health/tb.

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