March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day

Number of TB Cases in NY Continues to Decline, but Prevention Remains a Priority

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 24, 2010) – On the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., noted that the number of reported cases of tuberculosis (TB) in New York declined in 2009, but people still need to be vigilant in protecting themselves against exposure to the disease.

"Tuberculosis is no longer the widely feared disease is once was, but it still has the potential to cause serious harm and even death," Commissioner Daines said. "On World TB 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 1,006 TB cases reported in New York last year, a decrease of 16 percent from 2008, with New York City accounting for 760 of the cases – down 15 percent from the previous year.

Commissioner Daines 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 New York State's 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 2009, the rate of TB in New York was 5.3 cases per 100,000 residents, which is one of the highest rates in the nation and above the national average of 3.8 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.

The Department of Health (DOH) works closely with local public health agencies and health care providers and facilities on prevention and reporting of TB cases. In addition to supporting better 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.

World TB Day marks the 128th anniversary of the discovery of the cause of TB – tubercle bacillus or Mycobacterium tuberculosis – by German physician and scientist Robert Koch. 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 a person is infected with, treatment generally includes taking anti-tuberculosis medication for several months and continued laboratory testing.

Tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the U.S. in the 1940s, prior to the widespread use of drugs to treat the disease. Last year, 11,540 cases were reported nationwide, or 3.8 per 100,000 people, which is the lowest number reported since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's TB surveillance program was initiated in 1953.

Additional Facts About TB in New York State

  • Outside of New York City, 246 cases were reported in the State, a 19 percent decrease from 2008.
  • Approximately half (52.4 percent) of cases outside New York City were reported from three counties: Nassau, Westchester and Suffolk.
  • Only one case was diagnosed in the state prison system, compared to 75 or more reported cases each year in the early 1990s.
  • There were 13 new multidrug-resistant TB cases diagnosed in New York State in 2009, up from 12 reported in 2008, but lower than the 20-30 cases per year reported in recent years.
  • In 2009, 74 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 Web site at: