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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: March 21, 2013


The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in commemorating the annual World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on March 24, 2013. The date was chosen because Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, in 1882 on that date.

TB infects one third of the world's human population, and kills over one and a half million people every year, despite advances in detection, treatment and prevention. Recently the CDC announced its approval of a 12-week, once-a-week two-drug regimen for treatment of latent TB infection. (Latent TB infection is a condition in which TB bacteria in the body are inactive, but remain alive and can become active later to cause overt disease.) Though not appropriate for everyone, this new regimen offers a shorter course of treatment over the standard nine-month regimen previously used to treat latent TB infection.

Delaware averaged 21 TB cases per year from 2006-2011. About 65 percent of these were in individuals born in countries where TB is still endemic.

Delaware has three TB clinics, one in each county, that treat a total of 600 and 1,500 patients with latent TB infection every year. Sussex County's TB Clinic collaborates with the poultry industry to test and treat a largely migrant workforce originating from countries where TB is endemic. As a result of this effort, Sussex County's TB case rate is now well below the national rate even as the number of plant workers and the county's population have grown.

All three clinics collaborate with physicians and hospitals statewide to offer guidance on treatment and contact investigation of TB. Almost 100% of TB patients in Delaware receive medical management, medications, and directly-observed therapy (DOT), from DPH. DOT is an essential part of ensuring cure by having a TB professional administer every dose of medication, and observe the client to detect and intervene should they experience any side effects of the medications, and to provide support and assistance throughout treatment.

"This reflects the incredible diversity of the clientele our TB program serves," said DPH Medical Director Awele Maduka-Ezeh, MD. "Experienced, highly educated public health staff adept at communicating with people of many cultural backgrounds is essential. Trust must be established so clients feel safe when sharing information, which often includes the names of family, friends and acquaintances that may have been exposed to TB. This enables DPH to identify those needing testing and treatment and offer no-cost services to prevent TB from developing."

TB can spread when a person with TB of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, and the bacteria become airborne. Others may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. Infection generally requires prolonged face-to-face contact with someone with infectious TB.

Most people do not know that TB can impact other parts of the body beside the lungs. Symptoms of TB depend on the body area infected. TB disease in the lungs may cause symptoms such as a cough lasting three weeks or longer, chest pain, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, fever and night sweats. Untreated, TB disease can be fatal.

On March 22, 2013 at 1:30 p.m., the CDC is hosting a live webcast that will highlight 2012 U.S. TB surveillance data. The keynote speaker is Dr. Susan Ray, Professor, Emory University School of Medicine of Atlanta, Ga. Visit

To learn more about TB, visit the CDC's TB website at or call the DPH TB elimination program at 302-744-1050.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.