SEATTLE - Tuberculosis infection rates in King County are among the highest in the United States, according to a study released by Public Health Seattle & King County.

The newly released report says 114 cases of active TB were reported in King County in 2010, along with more than 100,000 people with latent TB. For every 100,000 residents of King County, 5.9 developed active TB, compared with a U.S rate of 3.6 and a Washington state rate of 3.5.

The report, entitled "Annual Report on Tuberculosis 2010," says TB rates are so high here because of a worldwide epidemic and the region's status as a global crossroads.

"As members of a global community, residents of King County are vulnerable to tuberculosis, a disease that infects one-third of the world's population and kills nearly 2 million people every year," the report says.

Roughly one out of five people treated for active TB in the county were identified as resistant to at least one medication and at least two people had multi-drug resistant infections.

The costs of treating multi-drug resistant TB can add up to $250,000 for each case, and public officials fear that proposed funding cuts could erode the health system's ability to treat TB.

"TB control is an essential investment in the health of our communities that helps us fight the local effects of this global disease," said Dr. David Fleming, Director & Health Officer for Public Health Seattle & King County. "In these difficult budget times, state funding support for this work is now threatened, but we can't afford to let down our guard."

Additional findings in the recent study:

The highest incidence of TB was among people who identify their race as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (48.3 cases per 100,000) or black (25.9 per 100,000).

TB incidence rates were also higher among Asians (20.2), American Indian/Alaska Natives (12.4) and Hispanics
(3.5). The rate among whites was 1.1.

Some 84 percent of infected individuals in King County were born outside of the U.S., primarily in Southeast Asia and India, East Africa and Central America.

Tuberculosis, also called TB, is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium named Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB often involves the lungs but can infect almost any organ in the body. TB is almost always curable with antibiotics that are readily available in countries such as the United States.

People with active TB disease are made sick by bacteria that are active in their body. People with latent, or dormant, TB infection are not sick because the germ is inactive inside their body, and they cannot spread TB infection to others.


Visit the King County Public Health website for more information >>

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