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CDC reports lowest TB rates ever in U.S.
March 24th, 2011
03:46 PM ET

CDC reports lowest TB rates ever in U.S.

Tuberculosis cases have reached an all-time low in the United States, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday, which is also World TB Day. Last year, 11,181 people in the U.S. were reported to have TB, which means there were only 3.6 cases of TB per 100,000 people, down nearly 4% from the previous year.  The CDC says the number of TB cases in this country are at the lowest level since national reporting began in 1953.

But these TB rates aren't low enough. Back in 1989, the CDC had set a goal of eradicating TB in this country by the year 2010, which would have meant less than 1 case per million people in a given year.

This latest data are being released in the CDC regular "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report", which comes out every Thursday at noon. This Thursday also happens to be the day that commemorates the discovery of the tuberculosis bacterium by Robert Koch  back in 1882.

129 years after this discovery, the World Health Organization reports that TB sickened 9.4 million people and 1.7 million died in 2009,  the most recent data available.  The WHO is particularly concerned about the number of cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, or MDR-TB, which is resistant to at least two of the best anti-TB drugs, according to the CDC.

The WHO estimates more than 2 million people worldwide will get a diagnosis of MDR-TB in the next four years. "The world needs to do much more to get care to all MDR-TB patients who need it," WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan says in a press statement, warning that the world "cannot allow MDR-TB to spread unchecked."

Among the more than 11,000 cases of TB in the U.S. last year, 113 patients had MDR-TB. One case of extensively drug-resistant TB or XDR TB, was reported.  The WHO is using this World TB Day to call on countries around the world to do more to diagnose and treat these drug-resistant forms of TB early, to curb the spread of these harder-to-treat forms of the disease. If someone contracts TB, it can be treated with drugs.  But if people don't complete the treatment plan, which can last up to a year, they can get sick again and spread the disease. If they don't take the drugs correctly, the TB bacteria in their body can become resistant to the drugs, which, when those bacteria spread, makes treatment more difficult.

While the number of tuberculosis cases in the U.S. are low, the latest CDC statistics highlight that racial and ethnic minorities are much more likely to get TB. For example, TB rates among Asians were 25 times higher than among whites. There were 22.5 cases of TB among Asians, compared with 0.9 cases per 100,000 among whites.

The CDC report also notes that the majority of people who have  TB  in the U.S., were born in another country. "60% of tuberculosis cases in the United States are foreign-born," according to Dr. Kenneth Castro, the CDC's Tuberculosis Division director.  He says some of these foreign-born people may have been infected in their home countries before coming to the U.S., or they may have traveled back to their countries of origin and been infected while visiting. People born in the United States aren't immune of course. If Americans travel to countries with high rates of TB, they can be infected just as easily.

People living with HIV continue to be at high risk for TB infection, both here in the U.S. as well as in other countries. Worldwide, 30% of HIV-infected people also have TB and it's the leading cause of death among HIV patients according to the WHO.


soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Bette

    Yes, the TB rate has gone down, but the little known NTM (non-tubercular mycobacterium lung disease) rate is going up for reasons not fully understood. Contracted from the environment and not contagious from person to person, NTM lung disease
    is not only more difficult to treat than TB, but often becomes chronic, causing weight loss, chronic coughing, fatigue, destruction of lung tissue and even death, yet it often is misdiagnosed by doctors until well advanced. I know; I've been battling NTM for eight years! The public, especially older women, really needs to be better informed about this life-changing, debilitating lung disease!

    March 25, 2011 at 00:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andy

      Thank you Bette for your obviously educated experience with this NTM. There is a whole family of lung diseases out there and NTM seems to be if not be right at the top. I have heard of Alpha 1 which often people have with NTM and maybe those who get diagnosed with TB should be tested for this. It is a shame that only the so called popular TB should get all the attention when there are some extremely serious illnesses that rot the lungs like this illness. Thank you for bringing it to my attention and I am sure there are others out there that you have helped... in at least that they are aware of it now.

      March 25, 2011 at 00:54 | Report abuse |
  2. Debbie

    It is important that the general public be informed of non tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM). Some of the symptoms include chronic cough, fatigue, weight loss, fever, pneumonia, difficulty breathing and night sweats. If diagnosed early enough, the conditioned can be managed and dire consequences such as lung damage may be avoided. More information can be obtained at http://www.nationaljewish.org/healthinfo/conditions/ntm/diagnosis.aspx, and http://www.ntminfo.org .

    March 25, 2011 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Vaughan

    Wouldn't get all happy about the report. The TB pandemic in southern Africa isn't accurately tabulated. Also here in the United States ... because of the Illegal immigrant backlash you are dealing with an unknown number of cases... (nothing astronomical but still the figures before you are reported cases by public health providers). The real concern is the of course the TB resistant to treatment in various third world countries.

    March 28, 2011 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. camedtime

    Any physicians looking for a job in the area of your choice? Did you know 90% of all Practice Opportunities are never advertised? Vist http://www.practicealert.com to find out more!

    April 7, 2011 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Mary A. Flowers, MD

    Baptist Hospital South in Montgomery, Alabama killed my father. The vascular surgeon made his foot ischemic from surgery and he got a wound infection. The interventional radiologist perforated his bowel while inserting a catheter, the nurse overmedicated him and he developed an aspiration pneumonia and required a respirator. He develpoed stomach ulcers from blood thinners and was left lying in a pool of blood. in the ICU and when that did not kill him he was allowed to rot in the ICU-developed massive, infected bedsores( yes! in the ICU) and developed bacteria in his blood stream and finally died from septic shock. Baptist Hospital can not be sued due to recent legislation which gives them immunity and a license to kill. We need healthcare reform NOW!

    April 10, 2011 at 02:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mary A. Flowers, MD

    I wrote above the horrors of healthcare delivered to my father at Baptist Hospital South in Montgomery. The latest is that they are denying us access to medical records because tgey say that our power of attorney is invalid. There is a culture of indecency and lack of dignity in our healthcare system since doctors became "providers" and patients became "consumers". We need healthcare reform now!

    April 10, 2011 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Hadleyi Norlaugi

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    July 8, 2012 at 05:14 | Report abuse | Reply

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