PIERRE, S.D. (KELO-AM) – South Dakota reported just nine cases of tuberculosis (TB) in 2013, the lowest number ever recorded in the state.
“TB control has long been a public health challenge – in 1950 there were 512 TB cases reported and there were two active TB hospitals in the state,” said Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “Today’s low numbers represent literally decades of hard work by public health and the private medical community.”
Kightlinger attributed the low case numbers to an aggressive state TB control program. State law requires that all suspected cases of TB be reported to the department, which screens those at risk for TB and conducts active surveillance to promptly identify cases. The agency ensures that those with the disease complete the full course of medication, which can be nine months or more.
The program works hard to keep TB infections from breaking down into active disease. Kightlinger explained that there is a difference between TB infection and active TB disease. TB infection results in a positive TB skin test but there are no symptoms of TB and no TB organisms found in the sputum. In contrast, active TB disease is characterized by symptoms and the presence of TB organisms in the sputum. Only those with active disease spread TB germs. TB may last for a lifetime as an infection and never develop into active disease.
TB is a bacterial disease usually affecting the lungs. Prolonged exposure to TB germs is normally necessary for infection to occur.
The department’s full year end disease surveillance summary can be found atdoh.sd.gov/documents/statistics/ID/Dec2013.pdf.