Record-low tuberculosis cases in Illinois -- but state remains among the highest in the nation

Tuberculosis numbers continue to drop in Illinois, but increase worldwide

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[March 25, 2013]  SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois Department of Public Health recognized Sunday as World Tuberculosis Day and is encouraging Illinoisans to learn about the disease in order to help stop its spread. Illinois ranks sixth in the nation for the highest number of tuberculosis cases. While tuberculosis is not common in the United States, it is still circulating around the world.

World TB Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about TB-related problems and solutions and to support worldwide TB-control efforts.

"Although Illinois experienced a record-low number of new tuberculosis cases during 2012, the increase in cases worldwide can mean more cases here," said Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. "It is important to raise awareness of TB and for people to know how the disease is spread, what the symptoms are and how to treat it. Educating yourself about tuberculosis and raising awareness in others will help stop the spread of TB."

Tuberculosis is a contagious and potentially life-threatening disease that is transmitted from person to person through the air when a person with active TB coughs or sneezes. People with the disease are most likely to spread the germs to people they spend time with every day, such as family members or co-workers. If you have been around someone who has TB disease, you should go to your doctor or your local health department for tests.

While TB can affect any part of the body, such as the brain, kidneys or spine, tuberculosis usually affects the lungs. General symptoms may include fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats. When tuberculosis attacks the lungs, symptoms can include a persistent cough that sometimes produces blood and chest pains.

TB disease can be treated by taking several drugs for six to 12 months. It is very important for people who have the disease to finish the medicine and take the drugs exactly as prescribed. Many patients comply with the strict drug regimen at first, but some stop taking their anti-TB medication after they start to feel better. Failure to follow the therapy for the full length of time prescribed may allow the tuberculosis to return. In some cases, the re-established infection cannot be treated with the usual antibiotics. TB that is resistant to drugs is harder and more expensive to treat.

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In 2012, 347 cases of active tuberculosis were reported in Illinois, a decrease from 359 cases reported in 2011. The record-low number of cases in Illinois can largely be attributed to Directly Observed Therapy, a program to make sure those with TB complete their full medication regimen. Therapy often involves health department staff meeting regularly with patients who have TB to watch them take their medications. The lower number of cases of TB in Illinois is also due to local health departments working with the state health department to identify those who have had close and extended contact with someone with TB, and treating appropriate cases for latent tuberculosis infection.

Following the national trend, the majority of TB cases in Illinois are among individuals who were born in foreign countries where TB is common, such as Mexico, India and the Philippines. In 2012, 69 percent of tuberculosis cases in Illinois were among people born in foreign countries.

Efforts to end TB include developing new treatments, increasing the capacity of health professionals to provide treatment and issuing new recommendations for improved testing for U.S. immigrants.

While great strides have been made to control and cure TB, this disease is still a problem in many parts of the world, including the United States.

To learn more about how tuberculosis is spread, the symptoms and how to treat it, visit

A webcast hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday afternoon highlighted personal stories from TB patients, provisional 2012 TB surveillance data and the burden of TB in the United States. The webcast will be archived for future viewing.

[Text from Illinois Department of Public Health file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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