SACRAMENTO September 7, 2016 – California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith today urged health care providers to adopt new recommendations recently announced by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force calling for adults 18 years of age or older who are at increased risk of tuberculosis (TB) to be screened for the disease.
Those considered to be at increased risk of TB include individuals born in countries with elevated rates of the disease and individuals who live in settings with a large number of people, like group homes or homeless shelters.
“I urge health care providers in the state to adopt these new screening recommendations as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Smith. “Local health departments should work with providers to ensure that today’s new recommendations are implemented. Today’s recommendations, if universally adopted, can help us eliminate TB in California in the next few decades.”
Evidence shows that screening of individuals at increased risk for TB is an effective method for preventing the development of TB disease.
TB is a disease caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs but can also attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain. It can be spread through the air from one person to another by coughing, sneezing or speaking.
When TB bacteria actively grow in people and cause symptoms, the condition is known as TB disease and can be deadly. People with TB disease can infect others. The bacteria can also be inactive, causing no symptoms and held in check by the immune system. This condition is known as latent TB.
Elimination of TB in California is possible by detecting and treating latent TB infection before it progresses to infectious TB disease.
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In California, an estimated 2.4 million people have latent TB infection. In 2015, 2,137 people were diagnosed with TB disease in the state.
Health care providers can consult with their local health departments to develop specific plans for screening their patient populations. The CDPH Tuberculosis Control Branch provides technical assistance to local health departments and health plans to implement tuberculosis prevention efforts.
CDPH has developed the California Risk Assessment Screening Tool to help health care providers to quickly identify people at risk for developing the disease and also a fact sheet that offers suggested courses of treatment.
For more information on TB, please visit the CDPH Tuberculosis Control Branch web page.