Health Team Efforts Cause Dramatic TB Decline
For release March 16, 2005
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Tuberculosis (TB) cases dramatically decreased in the Richmond-San Pablo area last year thanks to increased health intervention and community efforts. But despite this success, TB continues to be a problem in Contra Costa County, according to a report released as part of World TB Day on March 24.
In the Richmond-San Pablo area, the number of TB patients plummeted by 54 % from 28 to 13 cases between 2003 and 2004, according to the Contra Costa Health Services report. (The report is available online at http://cchealth.org). A spike in that area in 2001 prompted the Public Health Department to intensify efforts to fight the infectious disease. As a result, TB cases declined by 78% in Richmond and San Pablo over the past three years.
The success is encouraging, especially following the increase in TB in the county between 2002 and 2003, said Charles Crane, MD, Medical Director for Contra Costa Health Services' Tuberculosis Program. But efforts to combat TB must continue.
"Our health staff has been tremendously successful in their fight against TB in the Richmond-San Pablo area, and we must remain vigilant to bring down the number of cases in other parts of the county," Crane said. "We also need health care providers and facilities to continue reporting cases promptly."
Excluding Richmond and San Pablo, the rest of West County saw a 33 % increase from nine to 12 confirmed cases between 2003 and 2004. Public Health officials may use the same intervention techniques employed in Richmond and San Pablo to reduce the numbers in the remaining areas of West County. Those interventions included increased community outreach, improved questionnaires to gather information on patients and their social circles, and a mobile health clinic that provided TB screening.
Another potentially troubling statistic from the report is the 16 % increase in the number of drug-resistant TB cases, which are more difficult and costly to treat because these strains don't respond to traditional medications. TB normally is preventable and treatable, but improper treatment, such as failing to take medications consistently, increases a patient's risk of developing a drug-resistant strain.
The report also shows that Contra Costa County as a whole saw a 22% decrease from 82 cases in 2003 to 64 last year. Though the change is largely influenced by the decrease in the Richmond-San Pablo area, Central County also saw a decrease of 21% from 28 cases to 22 in the same time period. East County stayed the same with 17 cases both years.
For information on where to get a TB test or to see a doctor in Contra Costa County, call Contra Costa Public Health Toll Free at 1-877-405-8573. More TB information also is available at http://cchealth.org/topics/tb/
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- Charles Crane, MD