DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH NEWS
The New Mexico Department of Health’s (NMDOH) Tuberculosis Program commemorates World TB Day with an update on the progress our state is making with treating and eliminating tuberculosis (TB) disease.
Much progress has been made in recent years combating TB in New Mexico. Among the recent milestones:
- The NMDOH Tuberculosis Program reports a 21% decrease in the rate of TB cases in the state from 2006 to 2019.
- Preliminary 2020 data shows a total of 29 persons with active TB disease requiring treatment by the state’s TB Program
- During COVID19 pandemic, the NMDOH TB Program utilized telehealth to effectively provide care and treatment for 21 out of those 29 patients.
“To halt the spread of TB in its tracks, patients must be medically treated before they become infectious, so early detection is key,” said Department of Health Secretary Tracie Collins, M.D. “TB is similar to COVID-19 in that it can be airborne and passed person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.”
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that mainly affects the lungs, but also can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease still has the potential to be fatal. It can take up to 6 to 9 months to properly treat TB. It is important to complete the doctor-prescribed treatment as directed to decrease transmission to others, reduce risk of resistance to treatment and kill all the bacteria.
World TB Day is observed each year on March 24th to commemorate the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. At the time, TB killed one out of every seven people in the United States. There was no effective treatment for the disease until the discovery of the antibiotic streptomycin in 1940.
Warm, dry climates were prescribed for those with the disease, leading thousands to move to New Mexico in a bid to preserve their health. Many of them lived their final days in more than 50 sanatoriums across the state. Today, TB is very rare – with less than 20,000 cases nationally.
Symptoms of TB disease depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. TB bacteria usually grow in the lungs. TB disease in the lungs may cause symptoms such as
- a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
- pain in the chest coughing up blood or phlegm from inside the lungs
- weight loss
- extreme fatigue