Tuberculosis

Cause: Bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Illness and treatment: Tuberculosis (TB) usually affects the lungs, but can affect lymph nodes, bones, joints, and other parts of the body. Infection may be latent, and not communicable, or active. Typical symptoms are fever, weight loss, night sweats, cough, bloody sputum, and chest pain. If you have latent TB infection (LTBI) but not TB disease, your physician may want you to take medication to prevent you from developing TB disease. If you have active TB disease you must complete a course of curative therapy.

Sources and spread: TB is spread from person to person through the air. When a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes the TB bacteria may get into the air and be breathed in by others.

Additional risks: About 75% of cases in Washington are among foreign-born persons from countries with high rates of TB. People infected with the HIV virus, AIDS patients, persons with weakened immune symptoms, diabetics, young children and the elderly are at increased risk of developing active TB disease.

Prevention: Stop the spread of TB by covering the mouth and nose when coughing, and take all TB medicine exactly as prescribed. Completing treatment for LTBI and infectious TB prevents the spread of TB and the development of resistant strains. Persons at risk can be screened for TB.

Washington trends: Each year there are just over 200 cases of TB. TB incicence rates in Washington are relatively stable and similar to the national average.

2017: Washington State reported 207 cases of TB for a case rate of 2.8 per 100,000 persons. Only 7 of the 39 counties had 5 or more cases of TB, accounting for 83.1% of cases in Washington. King County accounted for 98 cases (47.3%) of the 207 cases (rate 4.6 per 100,000).

Purpose of Reporting and Surveillance

  • To identify and ensure the adequate evaluation and treatment of persons with TB disease
  • To identify the contacts of TB cases and ensure their evaluation
  • To ensure that all eligible infected contacts are offered and complete preventive therapy

Legal Reporting Requirements

Last update
October 2018