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County Health Officials Report 17% Increase in Tuberculosis Cases

County Health Officials Report 17% Increase in Tuberculosis Cases
An x-ray of a patient’s chest, who was diagnosed with bilateral pulmonary tuberculosis.
The x-ray revealed the disease was “far-advanced.” Photo: CDC

Public health officials Tuesday reported a 17% increase in active tuberculosis cases in San Diego County over the previous year.

In 2023, 243 cases of TB were reported, exceeding the average of 205 cases in 2021 and 2022. Over the last 10 years, annual reported cases have ranged from a high of 264 in 2019 to a low of 193 in 2020.

TB is passed through the air from person to person when someone who is sick with TB coughs, speaks, sings, or breathes. Symptoms could include lasting cough, fever, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss.

“If you or a loved one have TB symptoms or think you may have been around someone with TB, it’s important that you call your doctor or health care provider and get tested,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “We are seeing more cases of TB, not just in San Diego County, but around the state. We all need to be aware of the symptoms and take action quickly so that we can stop the spread of TB and protect ourselves, our families, and our communities,” she added.

According to the county, cases of the disease declined during the coronavirus pandemic. Some COVID-related precautions such as masking and social distancing might have reduced TB transmission. People might also have missed getting diagnosed or it might have taken longer to see a doctor because of strains on the healthcare system or changes in their care-seeking behaviors.

More than 175,000 people in San Diego County are believed to have latent TB infection, and most do not know it. Without preventive treatment, as many as 10% of those people may go on to get sick with active, contagious TB disease.

The county is hosting the San Diego TB Prevention Education and Community Engagement Summit at the Southeastern Livewell Center on March 22. Those in the medical community and healthcare organizations are encouraged to attend and participate.

The county operates a TB clinic at the North Central Public Health Center, 5055 Ruffin Road. Public Health Services also offers testing at regional public health centers throughout the county.

–City News Service