The Regional Municipality of Durham


News Release

Health Department observes World Tuberculosis Day

WHITBY, ON March 24, 2017 - Durham Region Health Department recognizes World Tuberculosis (TB) Day in an effort to promote awareness about the disease. TB is preventable and curable but remains an epidemic in much of the world. One-third of the world’s population will become infected by TB at some point, with most cases occurring in developing countries. In 2015, 10.4 million people were infected with TB worldwide, while 1.8 million people died from the disease.

TB infection is acquired through airborne bacteria released by a person who is infected with the disease. After an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, the TB bacteria are sent into the air and can stay there for several hours, especially in enclosed spaces. The bacteria can then enter and stay in the lungs of another person.

“TB is not easy to catch,” explains 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 good news is that Canada has one of the lowest rates of TB in the world and this disease is preventable, treatable and curable.”

In Canada, there are approximately 1,600 new cases of TB reported each year. In 2016, Durham Region Health Department investigated 19 cases of active TB disease and managed 280 cases of LTBI.

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.

People who are at higher risk for LTBI are those who have lived in, or have visited, parts of the world with high incidence of TB including Asia, Africa, India, the Middle East, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Other groups at risk include people who live in communal care settings, people who are homeless or under-housed, and health care workers with a risk of occupational exposure to TB.

“If you are planning to travel to one of these areas, 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 and wear a mask before entering a medical clinic.”

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

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Media inquiries:

The Regional Municipality of Durham:
Glendene Collins - Health Department, 905-668-7711 ext. 2999, or glendene.collins@durham.ca

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

For more information, please contact Health Department.