PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
March 24, 2014

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Christie Administration Recognizes March 24 as World TB Day

2014 Theme is: Find TB. Treat TB. Working Together to Eliminate TB.

In recognition of World TB Day, Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd commended public health workers for their efforts in the fight against tuberculosis but added that only through continued public education and vigilance will New Jersey be able to continue to make progress in reducing this serious lung disease.

"New Jersey has a world class TB awareness and treatment program and we are continuing our collaboration with physicians, hospitals, researchers and clinics to achieve the goal of eliminating TB in our lifetime," said Commissioner O'Dowd. "Last year, 320 New Jersey residents were diagnosed with TB. This represents a 67 percent decrease in cases since TB peaked in 1992."
According to the CDC, one third of the world's population is infected with TB. In 2012, more than nine million become sick with the disease and 1.4 million died. Worldwide, TB is a leading killer of people who are HIV-infected.

As one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse states in the U.S. with 20 percent of state residents being foreign-born, New Jersey faces a special challenge in fighting this disease. Eighty percent of the TB cases diagnosed in New Jersey last year were among the foreign-born population.

Babies, young adults, the elderly, those with HIV and others with weakened immune systems are also at increased risk including those with cancer, severe kidney disease or those who have undergone an organ transplant.

Counties reporting the highest numbers of newly diagnosed TB cases in 2013 were Hudson (59 cases), Essex (53 cases), Bergen (36 cases), Passaic (26 cases), Middlesex (31 cases), and Union (18 cases).

In New Jersey, every person diagnosed with TB is assigned a nurse case manager to supervise their care. Nearly all TB case patients are placed on directly observed therapy to ensure they take all medication doses. This is necessary for successful treatment of the disease and to prevent drug-resistant TB strains from emerging. Nurse case managers also identify the person's close contacts and arrange for medical evaluation in order to eliminate or reduce the further spread of the disease.

There are six regional specialty clinics in the state, where physicians are experts in diagnosing and treating TB, and also consulting with private physicians whose patients have complex medical issues. Those clinics are located at University Hospital in Newark, Morristown Memorial Hospital, Somerset Medical Center and the Camden, Middlesex and Hudson County health departments.

World TB Day commemorates the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacteria that causes TB. The day is observed each year to raise awareness of TB-related problems and solutions and to support worldwide TB-control efforts.

The CDC funds the world renowned Rutgers Global TB Institute at New Jersey Medical School, which has been designated a Regional Training and Medical Consultation Center serving northeastern states. It provides state-of-the-art TB case, research, education and training to physicians and health officials and technical consultation. The New Jersey Medical School's Public Health Research Institute also offers sophisticated laboratory testing to quickly identify TB strains, which aids in treatment and investigation.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by the bacteria of Mycobacterium tuberculosis that is spread from person to person through the air. The disease typically affects the lungs, but can affect the brain, kidney and spine.

TB bacteria become active when a person's immune system can't stop the bacteria from spreading and multiplying. Symptoms of TB include a bad cough that lasts for more than two weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs). Other symptoms are weakness or fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever, and night sweats.

Treatment for TB includes taking many types of drugs concurrently that work together to kill the bacteria. The regimen lasts at least six months, and medication must be taken even after the person feels well. Taking several drugs will do a better job of killing all of the bacteria and also prevent the bacteria from becoming drug resistant. TB is almost always cured with proper treatment.

TB can be detected through a tuberculin skin test or by drawing blood. For more on New Jersey's TB program and information about the disease, please visit: http://www.nj.gov/health/tb/index.shtml. For more on World TB Day, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/tb/events/worldtbday/default.htm. Health professionals may call the TB program at (609) 826-4878 to learn more about consultations, referrals and accessing supplemental public health services for TB patients.