Tuberculosis a global threat with local impact in King County

Tuberculosis (TB) remains an ongoing threat in King County, where the first local case of extremely drug resistant TB was identified in 2011. New data released by Public Health – Seattle & King County to mark World TB Day shows that in 2011 more than 100 people in King County were diagnosed with active TB, including the one person with extremely drug resistant TB.

TB infects one-third of the world’s population and kills nearly two million people every year. While TB is curable, extremely drug resistant TB is a rare form of the disease that does not respond to most antibiotics and is exceedingly costly and difficult to treat.
“In King County, we aren’t immune from the global TB epidemic or the changing nature of the disease itself,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County. “This extremely drug resistant case is just one example of why we can’t afford to relax our efforts in controlling TB."
In keeping with the global nature of TB, the person with extremely drug resistant TB was diagnosed overseas, but had recently lived in King County. Public Health worked with national and international health partners to identify and evaluate close contacts of the person to ensure that the disease did not spread within our community. No additional extremely drug resistant TB infections were identified within King County as a result of the investigation.
King County’s active TB rate is consistently among the highest in the country, reflecting the global nature of our community. Of the 106 people diagnosed with active TB in 2011, 84 percent were born outside the United States.
"TB is curable and preventable, but controlling TB is an ongoing challenge," said Dr. Masa Narita, TB Control Officer for Public Health.
Public Health – Seattle & King County's TB Control program ensures that people with active TB are diagnosed and treated until cured. The Program also evaluates and treats, if appropriate, people exposed to infectious TB, so it does not continue to spread.
Highlights of 2011 TB data:
  • 106 people were reported with active TB, for a rate of 5.5 per 100,000 people, a decrease from 116 cases in 2010. This was noticeably higher than the 2010 U.S. rate of 3.8 cases per 100,000 people.
  • 88 percent of infected individuals were born outside of the United States. Of these individuals, more than half came from five countries: the Philippines, Somalia, Ethiopia, Vietnam and India.
  • People of color continue to have disproportionately high rates of TB, with the highest case rate among individuals who identify their race as black (29.2) or Asian (17.4).
  • 18 people (17 percent) treated for active TB were resistant to at least one TB medication.
  • One multi-drug resistant TB case was diagnosed in King County in 2011. Multi-drug resistant cases are much more expensive to treat, costing up to $250,000 each.
To view the 2011 summary data and for more information on Public Health's TB Control Program and activities,
Providing effective and innovative health and disease prevention services for over 1.9 million residents and visitors of King County, Public Health - Seattle & King County works for safer and healthier communities for everyone, every day.


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