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News Release

Health Department observes World Tuberculosis Day, March 24

WHITBY, ON March 20, 2015

Durham Region Health Department will recognize World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, March 24, in an effort to promote awareness about exposure to TB and individuals who are at risk of contracting this infectious disease. One-third of the world’s population will get sick from TB, with most cases occurring in developing countries. In 2013, nine million people contracted TB worldwide and 1.5 million people died from this disease.   

Active TB disease is passed by breathing in the bacteria from a person who is sick with the disease in their lung or throat after that person coughs, sneezes or speaks. The TB bacteria are then sent into the air and can stay there for several hours, especially in enclosed spaces. The bacteria can then enter the lungs and usually stay there.

“TB is not easy to catch,” explained Byron Fox, a public health nurse with Durham Region Health Department. “It usually takes several hours of close contact with a person who has active TB to become infected.”

The body’s immune system can fight the bacteria by building a wall to help stop the bacteria from spreading. If the body is able to build this wall, a person will have what is called latent TB infection (LTBI). People with LTBI do not feel sick and cannot spread the bacteria to others. However, about 10 per cent of people with LTBI will develop active TB disease; this may be due to a weakened immune system, aging, poor nutrition, a serious illness, diabetes, drug or alcohol abuse, or HIV infection. These individuals can then spread the disease to others. Active TB disease includes symptoms such as coughing, fever, night sweats, weight loss, loss of appetite and tiredness.

“The good news is that Canada has one of the lowest rates of TB in the world and this disease is preventable, treatable and curable,” Mr. Fox said.

In Canada, there are approximately 1,600 new cases of TB reported each year. In 2012, 608 new TB cases were reported in Ontario and in 2014, Durham Region investigated 11 cases of active TB disease and 257 cases of latent TB infection (LTBI).

People who are at higher risk for LTBI are immigrants or visitors from countries with high incidence of TB, people who live in communal care settings, people who are homeless or under-housed and health care workers at risk of occupational exposure to TB.  Asia, Africa, India, the Middle East, Central and South America, and the Caribbean are places with higher rates of TB. 

“If you’re planning to travel to one of these countries, it’s important to have a TB skin test performed by a health care provider before and after your trip,” Mr. Fox explained. “Remember if you develop any symptoms of TB disease including fever, night sweats, weight loss or coughing, see your doctor or health care provider immediately. Also remember to put on a mask before entering a medical clinic.”

The Health Department has recently launched the Health Neighbourhood project, a website that provides health information for 50 neighbourhoods in Durham Region to better understand patterns of health in our community. Check out the incidence of LTBI in your neighbourhood by visiting durham.ca/neighbourhoods.

For more information about TB, the difference between active TB disease and latent TB infection, contact the Durham Health Connection Line at 905-666-6241 or 1-800-841-2729.

Media inquiries:

The Regional Municipality of Durham:

Glendene Collins – Health Department, 905-668-7711 ext. 2999

If this information is required in an accessible format, please contact the Accessibility Co-ordinator at 1-800-372-1102 extension 2009.

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For more information, please contact Health Department.