– To build local awareness of an ongoing global tragedy, the Snohomish County Board of Health recently adopted a resolution proclaiming March 24 to be “World TB Day” in Snohomish County. The Snohomish Health District is responsible for carrying out the work of preventing and controlling tuberculosis in Snohomish County.
Worldwide, each day 4,000 people die from this curable disease.
The Health District’s TB prevention and control program manages the treatment of about 20-27 active cases of TB every year. They also manage150-200 people annually who have breathed in TB bacteria but are not actively sick, known as latent tuberculosis. Snohomish County has among the highest number of TB cases in the state of Washington, which averages about 200 cases of active TB annually.
In the early part of the 20th century, TB killed close to 1,000 people in Washington every year, up to 96 percent of the people who had the active disease. Snohomish County had its own well-populated TB hospital near Snohomish, named Aldercrest Sanatorium. Over the decades, TB detection and treatment improved and brought the figures down dramatically—but the disease stubbornly remains present in our community.
“Although our work has forced the numbers down over the years, this disease is still alive in Snohomish County,” said Joseph Aharchi, Health District TB program manager. The best news is that TB is preventable and curable. It’s important for Snohomish County health care and social service staff to be aware of the disease potential in their patients and clients.”
In recent years, Aharchi’s staff of 11 have found and treated TB among school students, drug populations, transients, refugees, shopping mall staff, travelers to foreign countries, and government employees. The TB team continues to work on a current outbreak among mentally ill residents. To date, the Health District has screened 140 contacts of the original case, and found 11 positive for latent TB and eight with active disease.
Managing a TB case involves interviewing and perhaps treating the original patient’s close contacts for latent tuberculosis, and aggressively treating the patient with active TB. The standard course of treatment for TB lasts six to nine months.
“TB can affect and infect anyone,” said Aharchi. “We are here to help defeat it.”
Established in 1959, the Snohomish Health District works for a safer and healthier Snohomish County through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. Find more information about the Health Board and the Health District at http://www.snohd.org. Learn more about TB at the information table in the Health District atrium at 3020 Rucker Ave., Everett.
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash.