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When it comes to tuberculosis, MCHD is here to help

When it comes to tuberculosis, MCHD is here to help

Mar. 25, 2024

By Mary Wade Burnside

Back before Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, the disease killed 1 out of every 7 people living in the United States and Europe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That announcement took place on March 24, 1862, and the date since has been memorialized as World Tuberculosis Day, which took place yesterday.
The potentially fatal disease that affects the lungs can be transmitted via coughing, sneezing and spitting, hence the move historically to outlaw the latter to prevent the spread of TB.
Throughout the years, “consumption” took the lives of many well-known people, including poet John Keats (at age 25), writer George Orwell and actress Vivien Leigh. In 1969, musician Cat Stevens’ long convalescence from TB changed the course of the songs he wrote as well as his path in life.
Now, more than 160 years after the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the statistics in the United States are less grim when it comes to TB.
In 2023, West Virginia had a reported 15 total cases, notes Lori Rose, R.N., who runs the tuberculosis program at Monongalia County Health Department.
However, even though tuberculosis, or TB, isn’t a disease that is top of mind like it once was in the United States, it still requires vigilance and monitoring to make sure it remains as contained as possible, with a goal of eliminating it.
That’s because TB is much more common worldwide, and with international travel and immigration, the world has gotten a lot cozier than it used to be.
“The primary reason patients seek screening and treatment at the health department is typically due to recent travel to or immigration from countries with a high prevalence of tuberculosis," Rose said. Some employers require tuberculosis screening prior to starting a job, she noted.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 10 million individuals fall ill with tuberculosis every year, and 1.5 million people die from it annually. It’s the world’s top infectious killer, with rates higher than those of COVID and AIDS.
And it’s preventable and curable.
There are different tests to determine if individuals have TB. TB also can be latent or active, which can change the methods used for diagnosing.
At MCHD, our program complies and communicates with the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, part of the West Virginia Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services. We test individuals for TB and work with them while they receive mandatory treatment.
MCHD TB services include:
• The Tuberculin skin test (TST), which involves injecting tuberculin purified protein derivative (PPD) into the inner surface of the forearm. This will result in a pale elevation of the skin, “A positive result will have an induration of 5mm or more. A negative result will appear flat, with no induration,” Rose said.
The tests are available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, ensuring that MCHD operates within the necessary timeframe for Rose to read the results

The T-SPOT test is a blood draw that is another way to detect TB. If a person tests positive, further exams must be done to determine if the individual has active or latent TB.
TB low-risk letter, which includes TB screening and documentation of low risk.
Chest X-rays for those who qualify. The Division of Tuberculosis Elimination will provide chest X-rays. TB is detected when opacities and cavitation are seen in the lungs.
Physician evaluation
Medications and monitoring. Individuals with active TB in Monongalia County will take medication under supervision. Previously, a TB nurse would travel to a patients’ home, but now monitoring can be done virtually.
Case investigation and follow-up.

While Monongalia County Health Department does have a robust International Travel Clinic, there is no vaccine for tourists to take beforehand. But it’s always good to visit MCHD beforehand to get vaccines and get travel advice for the specific area where you will be visiting.
Check out Monongalia County Health Department’s website at for more information and call 304-598-5119 to make an appointment.

Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.





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