Suffolk County, NY - March 24, 2014 - Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) marks March 24th as World Tuberculosis (TB) Day. This annual event commemorates the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of the bacteria M. tuberculosis.
Last year, Suffolk County reported 22 new cases of TB (1.4 cases per 100,000 population), a decline from 33 cases in 2012 (2.2 cases per 100,000) and 43 cases in 2011(2.9 cases per 100,000).
“I congratulate our staff in our Bureau of Chest Diseases,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “This team’s work has not only helped contain the spread of TB but also reduced expenses by minimizing costly hospitalizations.”
The decline in the number of TB cases can be contributed in part to Directly Observed Therapy (DOT), a control strategy that helps to ensure that patients adhere to standardized treatment. Last year, staff from the Department of Health Services’ Bureau of Chest Diseases completed 1,745 DOT visits.
DOT visits are arranged at locations that are convenient and safe for both the patients and the health-care providers. At each DOT appointment, a health-care provider watches the patient swallow his or her anti-TB medications and observes for signs of worsening TB disease or adverse medication effects, which, if present, are promptly reported to the individual’s health-care professional by bureau nursing staff. DOT helps to ensure effective outpatient treatment of TB, thus reducing the need for lengthy hospitalizations. By improving completion of TB therapy, DOT also helps to prevent emergence of multi-drug resistant TB.
“Over the years our bureau staff has completed well over 100,000 DOT visits, demonstrating the dedication to control and ultimately eradicate tuberculosis in Suffolk County,” said Health Commissioner James Tomarken, MD. “I commend them for their hard work and dedication.” The bureau began tracking DOT visits in 1997.
Tuberculosis is a serious disease that usually attacks the lungs and can also affect other parts of the body. TB is spread from person to person through the air. A person with TB can die if they do not get treatment. Screening and medication have brought the disease under control in the United States, but TB is still prevalent in many countries of the world.