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TB Outbreaks in Texas Schools Show Disease Still a Threat
Date:10/15/2011

eign-born individuals -- both groups continue to be disproportionately affected despite declines," said Dr. Kenneth Castro, director of the CDC's Tuberculosis Elimination Program.

"TB rates for all racial/ethnic minorities are higher than those of whites -- seven times higher for Hispanics, eight times higher for blacks, and 25 times higher for Asians," he added. "Among foreign-born individuals, TB rates are 11 times higher than among those who are born in the U.S."

TB disease is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis which typically attacks the lungs. But the germ can attack any part of the body -- such as the kidneys, the spine, and the brain. And if it's not treated with the proper drugs, TB disease can be fatal, according to the CDC.

The highest risk for transmission is among people who live in the same household as well as people in college dorms, barracks and other close quarters, said Dr. Kenneth Bromberg, chairman of pediatrics and director of the Vaccine Research Center at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City.

Children and teens in school settings are at an "intermediate risk," he said.

Encountering people on a bus, subway or airplane is a less common means of transmission, but it can happen.

Just because someone has a positive result on a TB skin test doesn't mean they're infectious or even sick, however. It simply means they've been exposed to the bacterium that causes the disease. These people have a 5 percent chance of becoming sick over their lifetime, Bromberg said.

And "a subset of people with positive skin tests could be infectious," he added.

But the germ is most often spread by people who have symptoms, such as a chronic cough or weight loss.

One recent concern has been the emergence of drug-resistant or even multi-drug resistant strains of TB. These cases are harder to treat. Antibiotics are the usual course of treatment for non-resistant TB.

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