Monday marked as World TB Day

March 25, 2008 10:30:37 AM PDT
World Health Organization marks Monday as World TB Day to draw attention to the fight to stop tuberculosis. San Francisco has one of the highest numbers of TB cases in the country because it's an entry point for so many immigrants.

Tuberculosis is an airborne germ. That is how it is spread, and for starters, that makes it tough to try and control. But, what has doctors so concerned is that it is on the rise here in the Bay Area and it is proving to be more and more resistant to some drugs.

On Monday, doctors and health officials teamed up at SFO and held a press conference to try and boost awareness about tuberculosis. The big problem is that the Bay Area is such a major international hub. A lot of tuberculosis migrates in from other TB endemic countries via airlines. It is something that can potentially be fatal if not treated and you can be a carrier and show no symptoms. They say it is tricky.

Right now, around 2 million people are reported to be infected with TB in California. Doctors say what has to happen is more controls need to be in place. Immigration offices, for one, do test for TB if someone moves into the U.S. from a foreign country. But, people that are here for a short term, like students or work visas, are not tested or screened for TB. Doctors say their biggest concern is that it is very tough to treat.

I'm very concerned. The reason I'm so concerned is that we are now seeing basically uncontrolled increases in multiple drug resistant and extensive and virtually untreatable tuberculosis globally," says Dr. Robert Benjamin, M.D. of Alameda Country Public Health.

What doctors are trying to do is get education out and get the word out. They are stepping up prevention programs and they say simple acts like covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, is another way to try to help prevent TB.


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