Public Health – Seattle and King County are tracking the report of a person at the Seattle Transitional Care Center who has been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB). Public health works to determine the extent of possible exposure to tuberculosis and assists the institution while conducting assessments of the exhibits and providing guidance and information to staff and residents.
Tuberculosis does not spread easily
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria (microbes) that are transmitted from person to person through the air. Tuberculosis does not spread easily; much harder to spread than COVID-19, colds or flu. Repeated and prolonged exposure indoors is usually required to become infected with tuberculosis. Even in households with one person who is infected with tuberculosis, only about 1 in 3 close members of the household become infected.
Details of the assessment
As a precautionary measure, public health recommended that 25 people from the facility be assessed for tuberculosis, based on the time they were exposed to the person with tuberculosis indoors. The facility connects directly with those who need a tuberculosis assessment, which includes a medical risk assessment and a tuberculosis test.
All staff, patients and their families were informed of the situation this week, regardless of their level of exposure. Patients’ medical providers are also informed about the TB exposure in the facility.
If some people in the facility are identified as infected with a latent TB infection, preventive treatment will be highly recommended so that they do not develop the disease in the future, which can spread to others. Latent tuberculosis infection can be treated in three to four months.
The person in the institution with active tuberculosis is being treated and is not currently exposing others in the institution. Most cases of active tuberculosis are easily treated with antibiotics that are widely available; treatment usually takes six to nine months.
Active tuberculosis against latent tuberculosis infection
Unlike active tuberculosis, people with latent (or latent) tuberculosis infection cannot spread it to others and are not sick with the disease. Approximately 100,000 people in King County have a latent TB infection. Although not contagious now, they could potentially have active tuberculosis in the future and also infect others.
Approximately five percent of those who have acquired a latent tuberculosis infection develop active tuberculosis within two years, and another five percent develop active tuberculosis for the rest of their lives.
More on tuberculosis
Tuberculosis usually affects the lungs, but can affect the lymph nodes, bones, joints and other parts of the body. A person with active tuberculosis in the lungs can spread the disease by coughing or sneezing. In 2021, 104 new cases of tuberculosis were reported in King County. On average, about 2 cases of tuberculosis are diagnosed in King County each week.
To learn more about the signs, symptoms and transmission of tuberculosis, visit the TB Control and Prevention Centers website.
The tuberculosis control program protects the community
Public Health – The Seattle and King County Tuberculosis Control Program ensures that people with active tuberculosis are diagnosed and treated and that others in contact with them who are most at risk of infection are screened so that infections should not spread. The program recently expanded its efforts to combat latent TB infection in order to reduce King County TB by 20% over the next 10 years.
This important public health work improves community health and saves money by controlling the spread of tuberculosis, preventing outbreaks, and preventing the development of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, which can be very expensive to treat.
Tuberculosis is a global threat with more than two million deaths each year because people in many parts of the world do not have access to treatment and effective TB control programs like we do in the United States.
Originally published on June 23, 2022.