The ADH's TB Section has adopted new improved testing and treatment recommendations based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. These new practices will ensure Arkansans benefit from recent scientific advances by targeting those most at risk and assure that they receive the most appropriate treatment to protect them and the general public.
The ADH will no longer provide TB testing (PPD) and supplies to outside partner providers. The ADH is changing from Tuberculin skin testing to a blood test that is more specific in determining tuberculosis infection and can eliminate the need to treat patients who have falsely tested positive. ADH will only offer the TB blood test to those who are suspected to have TB, their contacts and other high risk persons. Individuals requiring testing for employment will be referred to their employer or another healthcare provider.
Any ADH partner provider who prefers to continue to use the TB skin test rather than the blood test will need to make arrangements to obtain testing materials. ADH will continue to provide clinical, technical and other support for these individuals. Providers are still mandated to report all active and latent TB cases to the Arkansas Department of Health.
The new treatment regimen recommended by CDC for latent TB infection is as safe and effective as the previous standard treatment and requires a shorter course of treatment. In the study, a higher percentage of patients completed the new, shorter treatment.
Many people think that tuberculosis is not the serious disease that we once associated with sanatoriums and many deaths. And while that is true, in Arkansas, we usually lose more citizens to TB each year than we do to complications from the flu. In 2011, 13 of the 85 people diagnosed with TB in Arkansas died. This is particularly distressing because if diagnosed and properly treated the lives of those infected can be saved and the spread of the disease to others can be prevented. In many parts of the world TB continues to be a major public health threat. There are almost 2 million TB-related deaths worldwide each year. TB is the leading killer of people who are HIV infected.
According to Dr. Naveen Patil, State TB Control Officer, "while the United States and Arkansas have seen a decline in the numbers of TB cases we cannot allow the success we have experienced make us complacent. We must continue to be vigilant against this deadly disease."
Arkansas has been recognized as a leader in the control of TB for decades. Changing the testing and treatment to meet the CDC recommendations will allow Arkansas to continue in this pivotal role.