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World TB Day is March 24. The North Georgia Health District, comprised of Cherokee, Pickens, Gilmer, Fannin, Murray and Whitfield counties, is highlighting this annual event. This date commemorates Dr. Robert Koch announcing his discovery, in 1882, of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis (TB) can easily be spread from one person to another. A person with active TB disease of the lungs or larynx can spread the infection to others simply by talking, laughing, singing, sneezing, and/or coughing.
The symptoms of TB depend on the area of the body that is infected with the bacteria. If the lungs are infected, the person experiences a prolonged, productive cough (duration of 3 weeks or longer), blood in the phlegm, chest pain, fever/chills, night sweats, appetite loss, weight loss and tiredness.

Though many people might think of TB as a disease of the past, it continues to be a problem today. Georgia has the 9th highest TB case rate (5 per 100,000) among the 50 states. In 2008, 478 TB cases were reported in Georgia. Seventeen cases were reported in the North Georgia Health District this past year.

TB treatment takes a long time to complete (at least 6 to 9 months), yet more than 90% of TB patients in Georgia complete a full course of TB treatment. Public health staff assures that TB patients are directly observed as they take every does of their TB medications until they complete their treatment.

Public health staff screen 7,000 to 9,000 persons exposed to TB cases in Georgia per year to prevent TB transmission in the community.

Multi-drug resistant strains of Tuberculosis are emerging. These are extremely difficult to treat as the bacteria are resistant to the standard medications used.  Approximately 5-8% of TB strains in Georgia are resistant to Isoniazid, the most commonly used TB drug.

TB is the leading cause of death among persons infected with HIV. About 14% of TB cases in Georgia are co-infected with HIV.

More information about tuberculosis is available on the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov. A direct link to World TB Day details is http://www.cdc.gov/tb/WorldTBDay.

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