For about a week, the Barton County Health Department has been investigating an “active” tuberculosis case in the county, Health Director Shelly Schneider said.
With the pedal down, lights flashing and sirens blaring, the Sheriff’s Office transported 42 blood samples to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment laboratory in Topeka by 10 a.m. Friday. If they had missed that deadline, the samples would have been invalid, and Schneider praised the efforts of the Sheriff Brian Bellendir and County Administrator Phil Hathcock who made the speedy trip possible.
Now, “we are waiting for the test results and go from there,” Schneider said.
She said there is a difference between and active case and a positive, or latent, case. Active means the person is experiencing symptoms, but someone can be positive and not be ill.
“A lot of people have latent TB,” she said. “It is only a concern when it becomes active.”
The worry is that this comes during the influenza season. Both diseases present similarly, she said.
“We’re concerned that we may not be able to discern the difference,” she said.
Tuberculosis is highly contagious and is spread through droplets, such as those produced by coughing. There is no vaccine.
Schneider stressed the importance of practicing proper coughing etiquette, hand washing and staying home when one is sick.
What is TB?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain.
Symptoms of TB disease depend on where in the body the TB bacteria are growing. TB bacteria usually grow in the lungs (pulmonary TB). TB disease in the lungs may cause symptoms such as:
• A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
• Pain in the chest
• Coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)
Other symptoms of TB disease are
• Weakness or fatigue
• Weight loss
• No appetite
• Sweating at night
Symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected. It can be fatal.
People who have latent TB infection do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms, and cannot spread TB to others.
In the United States, the number of TB cases were as high as 30,000 in 1974. But, numbers have dropped steadily and the total each year since 2012 has been around 9,000.
In 2018, among U.S. states, the majority of TB cases continued to be reported from 4 states: California (23.2%), Texas (12.5%), New York (8.3%), and Florida (6.5%).
The actual number of cases of active TB in Kansas has fluctuated, but in general has seen a slight downward trend. In the most recent statistics posted to the KDHE website, there were 39 cases in 2016.