Maine CDC Press Release

March 22, 2012

World TB Day Stresses Elimination of the Disease is in Reach

AUGUSTA – It has been 130 years since Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). Despite being over a century old, TB is still very much with us in Maine.

Each year, we commemorate the discovery of the disease on March 24, World TB Day. This year’s World TB Day’s national slogan Stop TB In My Lifetime. It emphasizes the idea that the elimination of Tuberculosis is within reach.

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by germs spread through the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, sneezes or sings. Signs and symptoms include a cough lasting 3 weeks or more, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, coughing up blood, fever, and chills.

“TB usually affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body,’’ said Dr. Sheila Pinette, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and prevention. Active TB is when the person is infectious and requires immediate treatment or the illness can become deadly. Latent TB (LTBI) occurs when someone is infected with the TB bacteria but cannot spread it to others because the bacteria are asleep or latent.

“Since LTBI can become active, it’s critical that medication is taken to significantly reduce one’s risk of converting LTBI to active TB,” Pinette said.

There are around nine million new cases of TB worldwide, each year causing nearly two million deaths. In the United States, the number of reported TB cases has been steadily declining since 1992 and is currently 3.6 cases per 100,000 persons.

In 2011, Maine had nine cases of active TB at a case rate of 0.7/100,000. While this number is lower than the national average, many more Maine residents were infected with LTBI and required medication.

Although both Maine and the nation have successfully decreased the number of TB cases, there is still much to be done to eliminate the disease in our lifetime. At-risk populations include the elderly, foreign-born persons, substance abusers and the homeless. New testing methods, lab diagnostic techniques and treatment regimens have made improvements in the area of TB.

“TB is still here in Maine. There has been tremendous progress in diagnosis and treatment. On World TB Day, it’s important to remember where we have been and how far we have to go to eradicate TB in our lifetime.” said Dr. Stephen Sears, Maine CDC state epidemiologist.

To find out how you can become a partner in the fight against TB visit http://www.cdc.gov/tb/events/WorldTBDay or contact the Maine CDC disease reporting line at 1-800-521-0821.