News Release

March 23, 2004

TB cases in Houston slightly higher in 2003

The latest statistical data collected by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) reveals that new tuberculosis cases in Houston rose 4 percent in 2003. March 24 is World TB Day.

Tuberculosis cases reported to HDHHS increased from 327 in 2002 to 340 in 2003. The cases represented 21.3 percent of the 1,594 cases reported in Texas in 2003.

Houston minorities continue being most impacted by tuberculosis, with blacks representing 40.9 percent of the cases and Hispanics, 35.6 percent. Immigrants made up 40.6 percent of the total cases.

At the end of 2003, HDHHS’ Tuberculosis Control program was providing directly observed therapy, or DOT, to 428 people, for a total of 1,018 supervised doses per week. DOT is an intervention in which HDHHS field staff deliver medication to a patient’s home, work or school, etc., several times a week and observe the patient taking the drugs.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is an airborne disease caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria, which can attack any part of the human body but usually accumulates in the lungs. It is transmitted from one person to another when someone with TB disease of the lungs or throat either coughs or sneezes and people nearby inhale the bacteria and become infected.

People with TB infection have no symptoms, don’t feel sick and can’t spread TB to others because the bacteria remain inactive. However, they may develop the disease later in life. With preventive therapy, they are unlikely to develop the disease.

TB disease develops when the infected person’s immune system can’t contain the germs’ growth. Although the initial infection is usually in the lungs, the bacteria can move through the blood to different parts of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain.

The disease can almost always be cured with medicine. The bacteria die slowly so to ensure all are killed, the treatment calls for taking several different drugs for at least six months.

People who don’t take the medicine regularly or who stop taking it when they begin feeling better after a few weeks put themselves and family and friends in a dangerous situation. The bacteria may begin to grow again, causing people with the disease to become infections once more, making them sick for an even longer time period and vulnerable to multi-drug resistant TB disease.

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