Tuberculosis Control in Anchorage a Major Concern
Controlling tuberculosis (TB) is a constant battle for health officials in Alaska
ANCHORAGE - Controlling tuberculosis (TB) is a constant battle for health officials in Alaska.
Two years ago there were 18 new cases in Anchorage and the Mat-Su area, last year there were 30, with 67 altogether across the state.
Anchorage has a TB control program to attempt to prevent large outbreaks by making sure anyone showing symptoms is tested and treated, even if they can’t pay.
Some people can be infected for years without even knowing.
“Basically you do have TB bacteria in your system, but it's asleep. If it's asleep it's not causing you any problems so you don't have any symptoms, but we still would like to treat it before it potentially can become a problem,” said Wendy Walters, Program Manager for Disease Prevention and Control for the city of Anchorage.
When the disease is active, symptoms can include a bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer, pain in the chest and coughing up blood.
"Then we need to make sure we treat it with a lot more antibiotics and potentially for a lot longer period of time," said Walters.
Some people are more vulnerable to catching TB than others, particularly the homeless who may also be harder to treat.
"I think they have a higher risk of anything that's considered communicable because they may not seek medical care when they do have symptoms. They may also congregate in closed confined spaces,” said Walters.
Bean's Café works with city health officials to make sure the homeless are tested on a quarterly basis.