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Tuberculosis conference increases regional awareness

The City of Kansas City, Mo., Health Department, the Jackson County Health Department and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will partner today for the Kansas City Metro TB Coalition conference, “Managing and Treating Tuberculosis: Meeting Today’s Challenge.” The event urges residents to understand the potential impact of tuberculosis at a local level and on global society in recognition of World TB Day.

The event is being held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the University of Kansas – Edwards Campus Regnier Hall, 12600 Quivira Road.

Tuberculosis is spread through the air when a person with active tuberculosis disease coughs, sneezes, talks or sings; only those with the active disease are contagious. Usually, for another person to be at risk of infection, he or she would need to be in an enclosed place with the sick person and breathe the germs for several hours. Families of those with the active disease tend to be at the highest risk of infection.

In most cases, tuberculosis is treatable. If left untreated, however, the infection can develop into the disease, and the disease if untreated can result in death. It is important to follow medical advice fully, including travel restrictions, as drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis are becoming more common.

Last year Kansas City, Mo., had 18 cases of active tuberculosis disease and 711 infections. Overall, Missouri had 107 cases of the active disease and 3,573 infections. The most recent national numbers show 13,779 of the active disease in 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates between 9 and 14 million people currently living in the United States are infected.

Although national statistics have shown 14 consecutive years of declining numbers, and we are at an all-time low in cases of tuberculosis reported to the CDC, history has shown that if tuberculosis is neglected, it will return. Elimination programs showed success in the 1970s, but program cuts reversed the national trend. There was a 20 percent increase in cases between 1985 and 1992, when a re-emphasis on elimination began the current decreasing trend.

On a global scale, the World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world population is currently infected with tuberculosis.

Media inquiries about this issue should be directed to Jeff Hershberger, Health Department, (816) 840-2548 (pager).

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