Maine CDC Press Release

March 23, 2010

March 24 Is World TB Day

Focus is reaching at-risk population

AUGUSTA - TB Elimination: Together We Can! is the U.S. theme for World TB Day on March 24. World TB Day is observed each year to commemorate the date in 1882 when Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB).

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by bacteria that usually infects the lungs but can affect any part of the body. TB is 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.

Worldwide, TB remains one of the leading causes of death from infectious disease. Each year, approximately 9 million persons around the world become ill with TB, and nearly 2 million TB-related deaths occur worldwide. In the United States, however, the number of reported TB cases is at an all-time low with 17 consecutive years of decline.

"It has been more than 120 years since the TB germ was discovered and although we have made great progress in fighting TB in Maine and the United States, we can not let down our guard," said Dr. Stephen Sears, the State Epidemiologist. "TB is sneaky—it can reappear when we least expect it. Fortunately, we have dedicated TB experts to help the Maine CDC keep TB in check."

Although both the nation and the state of Maine have successfully achieved decreased numbers of tuberculosis cases, there is still much to be done in the elimination of TB in at-risk populations, including minorities, foreign-born persons, substance abusers and those associated with homelessness who account for a disproportionate percentage of TB cases.

In 2009, Maine had 9 cases of TB, the same number of cases that were reported in 2008. Males accounted for 6 of the cases (67%). The median age of cases was 48 years (range 5-86 years). Risk factors included substance abuse (33%), homelessness (11%), and foreign-born status (44%).

The state of Maine is actively engaged in partnerships and collaborations with community-based organizations throughout the state to reach this population and succeed in the elimination of TB.