OLYMPIA, Wash.- Tuberculosis cases increased in Washington for the first time after several years of decline. Last year, 209 cases of tuberculosis (TB) were reported, a 13 percent increase from the 185 cases reported in 2012. The TB rate in Washington has historically been lower than the national average, but in 2013 it matched the national rate.
People with HIV or AIDS, individuals younger than 5 and older than 50, and those with weakened immune systems are at increased risk. The disease is spread in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks and others breathe in the bacteria. The counties with the most cases in 2013 were King, Snohomish, Pierce, Spokane, Clark, and Thurston.
TB is a dangerous disease. It’s a bacterial infection that usually affects the lungs but can attack other parts of the body. Most symptoms include fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, and a persistent cough. Some people may be infected with TB and have no symptoms. Timely treatment with proper antibiotics is the key to survival and less severe symptoms.
Drug-resistant TB continues to be a public health threat in Washington. This type of TB requires treatment for a longer period of time. In 2013, two cases of multi-drug resistant TB were reported to the state Department of Health. Infection control procedures must be in place in hospitals or health care settings to prevent exposure to TB to ensure that it doesn’t spread.
TB rates are often higher among racial and ethnic groups. Almost 75 percent of 2013 cases in the state were in foreign-born individuals. In 2013, 53.6 percent of all TB cases counted in Washington were among Asians, followed by Hispanics (13.9 percent) and whites (13.4 percent). American Indian and Alaska Natives accounted for only 1.4 percent of Washington’s TB cases in 2013.
In 2013, there were 16 TB-related deaths in Washington.