Public Health – Seattle and King County are investigating a report of a man at the Seattle Respite Care Center who has been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB). The Public Health Service is working to determine the extent of any potential TB exposure and is supporting the facility as it evaluates exposed individuals and provides guidance and information to staff and residents.

Tuberculosis does not spread easily

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria (germs) that are transmitted from person to person through the air. Tuberculosis does not spread easily; it is much harder to spread than COVID-19, the common cold, or the flu. Infection with tuberculosis usually requires repeated and prolonged exposure in a closed room. Even in households where there is one person who becomes infected with TB, only about 1 out of 3 close members of the household becomes infected.

Evaluation Details

As a precautionary measure, the Public Health Authority recommended that 25 people from the facility be screened for TB based on the amount of time they had contact with a TB patient indoors. The institution directly contacts those who need TB testing, which includes a medical risk assessment and TB testing.

This week, all staff, patients and their families will be informed of the situation, regardless of their level of exposure. Patient health workers are also informed about the impact of TB in the facility.

If a person is found to be infected with latent TB in a facility, preventive treatment is strongly recommended to ensure that they do not develop the disease in the future, which can spread to others. Latent TB infection can be cured in three to four months.

A person in a facility with active TB is being treated and is not currently putting others in the facility at risk. Most cases of active TB are easily treated with commonly available antibiotics; treatment usually takes six to nine months.

Active TB versus latent TB infection

Unlike active TB, people with latent (or dormant) TB infection cannot infect others and do not get the disease. Approximately 100,000 people in King County have latent TB. Although they are not currently contagious, they have the potential to have active TB in the future and can also infect others.

Approximately five percent of people who contract latent tuberculosis develop active tuberculosis within two years, and another five percent of them develop active tuberculosis for the rest of their lives.

More about tuberculosis

Tuberculosis usually affects the lungs, but can affect the lymph nodes, bones, joints, and other parts of the body. A person with active pulmonary tuberculosis can spread the disease by coughing or sneezing. There were 104 new TB cases in King County in 2021. In King County, on average, about 2 cases of TB are diagnosed each week.

To learn more about the signs, symptoms, and transmission of TB, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. tuberculosis website.

Tuberculosis program protects society

Public Health – Seattle and King County TB control program ensures that people with active TB are diagnosed and treated, and that other contacts who are most at risk of infection are screened to prevent spread of infection. The program recently scaled up its latent TB efforts with the goal of reducing the incidence of TB in King County by 20% over the next 10 years.

This important public health work improves public health and saves money by controlling the spread of TB, preventing outbreaks and preventing the development of multidrug-resistant TB, which can be very expensive to treat.

TB is a global threat that claims more than two million lives every year because people in many parts of the world do not have access to treatment and effective TB control programs like we do in the United States.

Originally published June 23, 2022

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