March 24 is World Tuberculosis Day: Early Detection, Coordinated Care Remain Key to Effective TB Control in New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 24, 2011) – Tuberculosis cases declined in New York State during the past year, but in today's global society, people still need to be vigilant in protecting themselves against exposure to the disease, State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. noted today, which is commemorated as World Tuberculosis Day.

"Tuberculosis remains a global challenge, but New York continues to focus on helping to control the disease through effective diagnosis and treatment," Commissioner Shah said. "On World Tuberculosis Day, we celebrate the great progress that has been made in fighting the disease, and renew our commitment to preventing exposure and protecting public health."

There were 954 TB cases reported in New York during 2010, a decrease of 5 percent from 2009, with New York City accounting for 711 of the cases – down 6 percent from the previous year.

Dr. Shah praised the collaborative efforts of state and local public health agencies, health care practitioners and researchers, and urged them to continue to educate the public, encourage prevention, and closely monitor TB. Preventing the spread of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, is one of 10 priorities established under the State Department of Health's (DOH) Prevention Agenda Toward the Healthiest State. The goal calls for reducing the case rate for TB in New York to 1 per 100,000 residents by the year 2013.

In 2010, the rate of TB in New York was 5.0 cases per 100,000 residents, which is one of the highest rates in the nation and above the national average of 3.6 cases/100,000 residents. The total number of TB cases in New York is the third highest of any state in the nation behind California and Texas.

DOH works closely with local public health agencies and health care providers and facilities on prevention and reporting TB cases. In addition to supporting public education about sanitary practices such as hand washing and covering the mouth during coughs or sneezes, DOH is involved in TB case detection and management, investigations and evaluations of exposed individuals, and laboratory confirmation of disease diagnoses--including rapid detection of drug-resistant strains.

World TB Day marks the 130th anniversary of the discovery of the cause of TB – tubercle bacillus or Mycobacterium tuberculosis – by German physician and scientist Robert Koch. This year's global theme is "innovation," incorporating new tools and enhancing successful efforts to stop TB. DOH's Wadsworth Center is hosting a regional TB research conference today and Friday to bring together basic science researchers from the Northeast in mycobacteriology, immunology, genetics and statistics to approach the TB epidemic from multiple perspectives. A symposium in New York City, "Innovations and Challenges," will focus on use of the new blood tests for TB infection.

TB is spread by airborne transmission of the bacterium, often through a cough or sneeze. The disease usually affects the lungs, but can impact other body parts such as the lymph nodes, kidneys, bones or joints. Symptoms of TB infection include sickness or weakness, low-grade fever or night sweats, a persistent cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, and/or weight loss. Not all infected individuals have obvious symptoms.

Anyone who has come into contact with someone who has TB is strongly advised to immediately contact a health care provider for free, confidential testing. Early detection and treatment of TB is essential to preventing serious medical problems and further spread of the disease. Based on the type of TB infection, treatment generally includes taking anti-tuberculosis medication for several months and continued laboratory testing.

Tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the United States in the 1940s, before the widespread use of drugs to treat the disease. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began its TB surveillance program in 1953.

Additional Facts About TB in New York State:

  • Outside New York City, 243 cases were reported in the State, a 1 percent decrease from 2009.
  • Approximately half (51.4 percent) of cases outside New York City were reported from three counties: Nassau, Westchester and Suffolk.
  • Only two cases were diagnosed in the state prison system, compared to 75 or more reported cases each year in the early 1990s.
  • There were 14 new multidrug-resistant TB cases diagnosed in New York State in 2010, up from 13 reported in 2009, but lower than the 20-30 cases per year reported in recent years.
  • In 2010, 79 percent of reported cases were among persons born outside the United States, with predominant areas of origin including Latin America, East Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Additional information on TB can be found on DOH's website at: