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MADISON, Wis. -- The Department of Health and Family Services is urging medical providers and clinics to be on the look out for patients with symptoms of tuberculosis (TB). Symptoms of TB include strong cough that has lasted longer than three weeks, fever, chills, night sweats and weight loss.
Not everyone that has a cough has TB, and the infection cannot be transmitted in the air. In fact, TB is only spread through close, prolonged contact with a person that is in the infectious state of TB. However, people need to be aware that tuberculosis has not gone away. In fact, more than two million people worldwide die each year from TB-related causes.
"We identified 95 cases of active tuberculosis disease in the state during 2004," said Tanya Oemig, director of the Tuberculosis Program in the Division of Public Health. "This is a 44 percent increase compared to the 66 TB cases reported in Wisconsin during 2003."
The rise experienced in Wisconsin may be due to delayed diagnosis of the disease. Many TB patients had symptoms during 2003, but were not diagnosed with active TB disease until 2004 because the symptoms went unrecognized.
"Unfortunately, delayed diagnosis of tuberculosis substantially increases the risks of the disease spreading from one person to another-especially if they are unaware that they have TB," said Oemig. She noted that TB is treatable with antibiotics, which can keep an individual from becoming sick with active TB disease.
To improve access to screening and treatment, the Department of Health and Family Services expects to spend approximately $300,000 for TB prevention and treatment during this fiscal year. The money will be used for local health departments in Wisconsin to provide outreach to populations at risk, including:
People with recent contact with a person who has infectious TB
People with a history of homelessness
Residents and employees of group settings, such as nursing homes or jails
Users of illicit drugs
People born in countries that have a high rate of TB
Source: Wisconsin Department of Health