Tuberculosis and mankind share a dramatic and intertwined history. TB has caused millions of deaths every year for centuries, been found in Egyptian mummies, has placed patients into sanatoriums, and has even has a folklore link relating it with vampires, The drama continues into this decade: in 2012, there were 8.8 million new cases of TB diagnosed worldwide and around 1.2 million deaths.
Public health departments have been fighting for TB elimination since their creation. Efforts in the 1950s decreased mortality by nearly 90%, but a resurgence in cases and deaths occurred after drug-resistant strains emerged in the ‘80s. Soon after, the WHO declared TB a global health emergency, and the next decade saw TB control targets developed in an attempt to eliminate TB.
Arizona continues to strive to hit these targets. In 2013, there were 184 TB cases reported in the state, a 13% decrease from the year before. Arizona also has a lower case rate compared to the nationwide average. Our programs use “directly observed therapy”, evidence-based policies, and partnerships with counties and Cure TB to ensure patients are completing treatment and reducing their risk of developing drug-resistant TB.
Our Arizona State Public Health Laboratory also supports TB control. In 2013, we adopted the Cepheid GeneXpert, a test that detects TB in only 2 hours while identifying mutations associated with drug-resistant TB. Specimens found to have these mutations are forwarded to the CDC for a full battery of molecular tests to confirm drug resistance.
World TB Day is coming up on March 24th, which is commemorated annually to bring global awareness about the effects of TB. You can join us for a Twitter Chat at 10 a.m., March 24, 2014 to discuss TB in Arizona. Follow us on Twitter and follow the chat using #azhealthchat.