California’s TB Cases Are on the Rise, but It’s Probably No Cause for Alarm

California’s TB Cases Are on the Rise, but It’s Probably No Cause for Alarm

The steady rise in TB cases since 2020 might just be a sign of things returning to normal after the pandemic lockdown. Above, a freeway sign displaying a COVID-19 message above the 5 Freeway in Los Angeles on Jan. 20, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

California Insider Staff

California Insider Staff

3/26/2024

Updated: 3/26/2024

California’s tuberculosis cases have been increasing steadily since 2020, according to data from the state’s Department of Public Health.
The department reported a 24 percent increase in TB cases since 2020, with a 15 percent jump from 2022 to 2023. That brought total cases to 2,113 in 2023.
TB is a disease that spreads through the air and is caused by a bacteria called mycobacterium TB. It primarily affects the lungs but can also affect the kidney, spine, and brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Someone infected with mycobacterium TB may not become sick, in which case it would be classified as latent TB infection. Latent TB can become active if untreated. TB can be fatal: the health department reports that more than 200 Californians die each year from the disease.
The number of cases reported in 2023 is similar to the 2,110 reported in 2019. The number of TB cases reported from 2014 (with 2,130 cases) until 2019 had remained stable, with little variation for each year, according to the department’s report.
However, the number of TB cases fell from 2,110 in 2019 to 1,703 in 2020. Cases have been steadily increasing from 2020 until 2023.
That means that there was a significant fall of TB cases from 2019 to 2020.
So what’s the reason behind the fall and the jump that followed?
Although an increase in TB cases might sound the alarm for some, it might just be a sign of things getting back to normal.
“Potential reasons for the increase include resumption of normal activities that had been reduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and which may have temporarily reduced TB transmission and TB detection,” the report said.
The report added that “travel and migration between California and elevated TB areas have resumed. People may have returned to seeking health care normally and providers and public health programs are again testing for TB and LTBI. Less TB prevention and contact investigation during the pandemic likely increased the number of people with untreated LTBI who may have progressed to active TB disease.”
“Persistent insufficient LTBI testing and treatment coupled with above factors are likely responsible for the overall TB case increase,” the report concluded.
TB is preventable, the report says: “The vast majority of TB cases (85 percent) were attributable to progression of LTBI to active TB,” which means that a timely diagnosis and treatment are key.
TB is spread through the air. It is not spread through handshakes, sharing foods or drinks, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes or kissing, according to the CDC.
A person who has TB may spread it to others if his disease is active.
The CDC listed the main signs of TB as:
  • A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer.
  • Pain in the chest.
  • Coughing up blood or phlegm from deep inside the lungs.
  • Weakness or feeling very tired.
  • Losing weight without trying.
  • Having no appetite.
  • Chills and fever.
  • Sweating at night or when you are sleeping.
TB can be treated, even when it is latent. Treatment usually lasts at least six months, according to the CDC. The agency said it’s unlikely for a cured individual to get TB again.
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