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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: April 9, 2014


WILMINGTON, DE (April 9, 2014) Following the March 13, 2014, announcement that two Howard R. Young Correctional Institution (HRYCI) former inmates were diagnosed with active tuberculosis or TB disease, the Division of Public Health (DPH) and Department of Correction (DOC) have been working closely together in response. DPH will offer free screenings and treatment to former inmates of Howard Young who may have been exposed to TB. While the risk of transmission is low, the medical guidance is that those who have been exposed, and who get infected with the TB bacteria, should be treated so they do not develop TB disease.

DPH has invited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consult and provide input on screening procedures and on which specific population of the HRYCI facility to target. Consistent with routine DPH TB elimination protocols, the agency will reach out via letter or phone call to schedule testing of former inmates who are considered at potential risk. DPH has already either recommended or provided testing for community members known to be in recent contact with the two sick former inmates prior to diagnosis. DOC also has begun screening its HRYCI employees and current inmates.

TB is generally on the decline throughout the country - with about 10,000 cases nationwide in 2012 -- but vigilance is important. Delaware had 28 cases of TB disease (also known as "active TB") in 2012, 19 in 2013, and four to date in 2014. As opposed to the latent kind, TB disease cases are defined as having the symptoms of the illness and being able to spread it to others if the infection is in the lungs or larynx.

General information on TB:

TB is a bacteria that can be inhaled into the lungs of others when a nearby person with the active disease coughs, sneezes, sings or laughs. People with TB disease are most likely to spread the disease to people they spend time with every day, such as family or other household members, close friends, and coworkers. Signs and symptoms of TB may include a progressively worsening cough that lasts more than two weeks, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, night sweats, fever, chills, and chest pain. TB can affect any bodily organ, but is infectious to others only when it occurs in the lungs or larynx (voice box).

Most people who are infected with the TB bacteria will have a positive TB test, but will never develop symptoms and cannot spread the disease to other individuals. Only people with TB symptoms (which is rare) can spread the disease. TB is NOT spread by shaking hands, touching, sharing food or drink, utensils, bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes, or saliva from kissing.

TB disease is treatable and curable, usually by taking several medications for 6 - 9 months. About 5 - 10 percent of persons infected with TB bacteria will develop the disease at some time in their lives; most within the first two years after the infection occurs.

In most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing. The bacteria become inactive, but they remain alive in the body and can become active later. This is called latent TB infection. People with latent TB infection cannot spread TB bacteria to others. People who have latent TB infection can be treated to prevent developing TB disease.

For medical questions about TB, call 302-255-4555.

Additional information from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.

The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and communities. For nearly 20 years, APHA has served as the organizer of NPHW. Learn more at www.apha.org.

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.