January 10, 2003
HEALTH DEPARTMENT WITNESS TO STATEWIDE RISE
IN CHILDHOOD TUBERCULOSIS
Charlotte, NC - The Mecklenburg County Health Department is treating three children for tuberculosis (TB). Two of the three children have been diagnosed since the first of the year.
Supervisors at the Health Department's TB clinic say the increase in childhood cases is noteworthy, since a child that's sick with TB is the result of close contact with someone else-usually an adult family member or other close contact-who has an active case of the disease. That individual may have been previously undiagnosed.
Dr. Stephen Keener, medical director, says young children are treated aggressively once they have been exposed because they can become seriously ill from tuberculosis. TB can be cured with proper medical treatment. That treatment can last six to nine months or even longer in drug-resistant cases.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection, usually of the lungs. In adults and older children symptoms are fever, chills, night sweats, a productive-sounding cough, weight loss and a loss of appetite. Very young children and infants may not have a cough.
TB is spread from person to person through the air when someone infected coughs or sneezes. A simple skin test is used to determine whether someone has TB infection. A chest X-ray or other follow-up tests may be necessary after a positive reaction to the skin test. Close contacts such as family members, friends and co-workers may also need to be contacted for TB skin testing.
There were 49 total cases of TB diagnosed in Mecklenburg County in all of 2002 -- well below the five-year average of 65 cases. The Health Department is currently treating 30 active cases.
Still, the number of children diagnosed with TB is increasing throughout North Carolina and other states, particularly where people have come from other countries that still have widespread cases of the disease. According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, from January to November of 2002, 17 cases of TB had been reported in children younger than 15 years of age.