by the Niagara County Department of Health
World Tuberculosis Day is March 24. It is a time to promote awareness about the disease. Tuberculosis (TB) is spread through the air by people who are sick with TB disease. Each year, about 9 million people become sick with TB disease and more than 1 million die from it. TB continues to present challenges. People travel the world more freely, leading to its spread, and drug-resistant TB makes achieving a cure more of a challenge. Since 2008, Niagara County has averaged about three cases of TB disease per year.
People with TB disease may have a positive tuberculin skin test (TST) and an abnormal X-ray, along with signs and symptoms that may include a cough for more than three weeks, unexplained weight loss, fever, fatigue and night sweats.
Prolonged exposure to someone with TB disease can result in TB infection. A person with TB infection without disease may have a positive skin test, a normal X-ray, is not sick, and cannot spread germs to others. A person with TB infection has a 12 percent chance of developing TB disease.
The Niagara County Department of Health tuberculosis program provides services to treat and cure TB disease, to prevent it from spreading, and to provide preventive treatment so those with TB infection do not develop active TB disease.
When a TB case is diagnosed, Niagara County nurses conduct investigations to identify those who may have been exposed to the person with TB disease. Niagara County nurses administer skin tests to assess for TB infection. For people diagnosed with TB disease, TB nurses provide directly observed therapy (DOT), where they are present to supervise and observe TB clients taking their medications. The nurses also provide assessment of signs and symptoms, and coordinate follow-up testing until TB patients are cured of active disease.
The Niagara County Department of Health nursing division conducts a free TB clinic monthly for people with TB infection. The TB clinic is staffed by nurses and a medical doctor who specializes in TB and diseases of the lung. Clinic staff members provide health teaching, case review and consultation with the TB doctor so patients are informed about their medications.
In 1917, Niagara County opened its TB sanatorium, which housed people with TB. At that time, the disease was more prevalent than it is today. The pillars marking the entrance to the former TB sanatorium still stand before the Mount View Campus site of the Niagara County Department of Health in Lockport. Today, the Niagara County Department of Health is still fighting the disease.
The nursing division conducts educational sessions (in-services) and training about TB to nursing homes, hospitals, academic institutions, and other congregate settings upon request. For further information on tuberculosis, clinics and in-service opportunities, contact the Niagara County Department of Health Nursing Division at 716-278-1900.