Tuberculosis (TB) and COVID-19, a growing concern, July 28, 2020

While we focus on the new threat, an old one may be gaining strength. With medical providers focusing on COVID-19 and patients delaying care, infectious disease experts in California are concerned that TB is going undiagnosed. Concerns are growing that TB could be spreading among those with COVID-19, undetected. When HIV/AIDS emerged in the U.S., TB surged in those communities heavily impacted.

TB has been with us for over 9,000 years, and it is estimated that one third of the world’s population is living with latent TB infection (LTBI). Approximately 2.4 million Californians are currently living with LTBI. People can live with LTBI for years, even decades before developing TB disease.

LTBI is not contagious and is much easier to treat than TB disease. Treating LTBI before people get sick with TB disease and spread TB in their communities is a new focus of TB experts in the U.S.

Each year more than 2,000 people are diagnosed with TB disease in California. TB disease is both preventable and curable, and yet people still die with TB. Approximately 10% of people with TB disease in California, died with TB.

Dr. Robert Benjamin, longtime CTCA member and dedicated TB MD in California, suggested a new slogan for TB care and prevention staff in public health departments, now focusing on COVID-19: Not All Coughs Are COVID. We want to urge the medical community and the general public to remember that one third of the world’s population is infected with TB, and Not All Coughs Are COVID.

Know the risks for TB. If you have one, contact your medical provider to be tested. If you have a positive TB test, talk with your medical provider about taking a short course drug treatment to prevent TB disease. You are not just protecting yourself, you are protecting the future of your family and those around you.

We can’t forget about TB. It doesn’t forget about us.

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