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Home > Health Topics > Podcasts > Tuberculosis (TB) is on the Rise in Contra Costa County

Tuberculosis (TB) is on the Rise in Contra Costa County

April 15, 2009

William Walker, MD
Contra Costa Health Services

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In our county we have seen a 55 percent increase in tuberculosis cases, up from 51 cases in 2007 to 79 cases in 2008.

This is a troubling trend that reminds us we need to remain vigilant in fighting this devastating disease.

I'm Dr. William Walker, the County Health Officer and Director of Contra Costa Health Services, and I would like to talk to you about tuberculosis, who is at risk and who should get tested.

Tuberculosis—or TB—is an airborne disease that usually infects the lungs. Today, TB is a major cause of illness and death, killing nearly 2 million people worldwide each year.

Though anyone can become infected, some people are at a higher risk for disease, such as people born in countries with high rates of TB. We also know that people with HIV/AIDS, diabetes or other chronic conditions that affect the immune system are among those at risk of developing active TB.

Additionally, people in certain occupations such as health care workers, homeless shelter employees and safety workers are at higher risk of becoming infected.

The most important thing we can do to protect our community and ourselves from tuberculosis is to get tested. If you know someone with TB symptoms, encourage that person to see a health care provider to be evaluated.

Typical TB symptoms include a cough lasting more than three weeks, fever, night sweats and unintended weight loss.

Some people are reluctant to see a doctor even though they have the symptoms. If a person waits before seeing a provider, it will increase the risk of exposing friends and family to this potentially deadly disease.

There are several tests to detect TB. The most common test for TB infection is a skin test. If the skin test is positive, a person will need a chest X-ray to determine if the infection has become active disease.

A person with the disease is usually contagious and can spread the germ to the people around them.

Even if the TB has not become active, a person who has a positive skin test needs to be evaluated for treatment because the germ is still in the personís body and could become active in the future.

TB is treatable with special antibiotics that are taken for 6 to 9 months and sometimes longer.

In addition to taking antibiotics, healthy habits like coughing and sneezing into your sleeve and following the instructions of your health care provider will help to prevent the spread of TB and other germs.

For more information on tuberculosis, where to get a skin test or how to see a doctor in Contra Costa, call Contra Costa Public Health toll free at 1-877-405-8573 or visit our website at

Thanks for listening.

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