Tuberculosis: A Continuing Public Health Challenge

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is using the public health observance of World TB Day on March 24 to reinforce the message that tuberculosis (TB) continues to be one of the leading causes of death from infectious disease in the world and continues to occur in Oklahoma.

During 2006, there were 9.2 million new cases of active TB and 1.7 million deaths due to TB worldwide. In Oklahoma, sustained and vigorous public health efforts have led to a steady decline in disease and death due to TB. In 2008, a total of 100 new cases of TB were diagnosed.


This is down from 149 cases in 2007 and represents the lowest yearly total in Oklahoma history. However, this good news also comes with a challenge. With decreasing TB cases, health care providers and the general public must remain vigilant and aware that TB still occurs in Oklahoma. With increased immigration to the US from high incidence countries and increased competition for public health resources, we all need to remain aware and informed

The symptoms of TB can include persistent cough, weight loss, fever and night sweats. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent further spread of infection and diminish the duration and extent of disease. Individuals experiencing these symptoms should contact a physician for evaluation. TB is spread from person to person when someone with TB coughs, sneezes, laughs or sings, propelling the TB bacteria into the air.

People nearby may breathe in the bacteria and become infected. TB usually affects the lungs, however, other parts of the body can also be affected. Public health officials investigate cases of TB to ensure individuals receive treatment and to prevent transmission to other individuals.