Wednesday, July 30, 2008


By Heather Murphy

FLORENCE, AZ – The Pinal County Public Health Services District is actively investigating people who came in contact with a child who was discovered to have had active infectious tuberculosis (TB) while in the Maricopa area of Pinal County.  The child, originally from Ethiopia where TB is common, spent some time living in Maricopa before moving to the state of Washington three months ago.  Washington health officials are ensuring that the child receives appropriate medical treatment and notified Pinal County Health officials as soon as it was determined that the child had active tuberculosis.


People who were contacts of the child, including some children in a preschool, have already been identified and are being contacted to be tested for TB infection.  Any person who may have been infected will be followed up by Pinal County Public Health to make sure they are treated.


"People usually do not become infected through casual contact such as being in the same open area, like a grocery store.  Contacts that need to be tested for TB infection are people who have had several hours of exposure to an infectious person.  We know who those people are and are contacting them," said Tom Schryer, Director of Public Health.


TB skin testing is not routinely recommended for everyone.  It is recommended for some people who may have work-related exposures to people who have TB disease and for people who have known exposures to people who have infectious TB.  For children, TB skin testing is recommended only for those who come from areas where TB is very common or for children who have been closely exposed to someone who is infectious.  If you have any questions about whether you or your child needs to be tested for TB please call the Pinal County Public Health Services District at 520-866-7347.


Children rarely spread TB, but in this case the child has more severe symptoms associated with being infectious.  Tuberculosis is spread through the air by coughing, sneezing, speaking or singing.  The germs can linger in the air for several hours.  People become infected by breathing in these germs.  If they become infected this is called "latent TB".  A person with latent TB is not infectious and will not spread the disease.  In fact, a healthy person who has latent TB has about a 10 percent chance of developing TB disease during their lifetime.  People who are immune compromised and have latent TB have a much greater chance of developing TB disease.  People who have latent TB can be treated to make sure they do not develop TB disease later on.


Sometimes latent TB develops into "active TB" which causes TB disease and can spread.  People with active TB may feel weak, lose weight, have a fever and have night sweats.  TB usually affects the lungs but may affect other organs such as the spine, brain or kidneys.  A person with TB disease of the lungs may cough, have chest pain, or cough up blood.  A person with active TB disease may die if they do not get treatment.  The Pinal County Public Health Department works to make sure that people with active TB receive the treatment they need to become healthy and to avoid spreading the disease to other people.


For more information about TB please call the Pinal County Public Health Services District at 520-866-7347.  Information about TB is also available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at