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Screening crucial for finding latent tuberculosis

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | September 14, 2021 1:03 AM

MOSES LAKE — The pace of travel has slowed considerably since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the pandemic is a reminder some of the “souvenirs” are definitely unwelcome.

In the United States, tuberculosis is no longer the threat it was back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Julia Austin, public health nurse with the Grant County Health District, said there aren’t any cases of active tuberculosis in Grant County, although there are cases in the state.

But there are two states of TB, Austin said.

“There’s latent TB and active TB,” she said.

A person with latent tuberculosis doesn’t show any symptoms and doesn’t feel sick, and they can’t spread it. Latent tuberculosis doesn’t show up when doctors use some of the common diagnostic tools, like a chest X-ray, according to information on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

“We definitely have a lot of people (in Grant County) with latent tuberculosis infection,” Austin said.

The CDC website says international travel puts people at increased risk of contracting tuberculosis. Countries with a higher incidence of tuberculosis are both near, like Mexico, and far, like China and the Philippines.

Latent tuberculosis might not ever be a problem for the person who contracts it.

“You may never develop active tuberculosis,” Austin said.

The latent stage is a good place to get rid of it.

“Active TB is preventable if you get your latent tuberculosis treated,” she said.

People can find out if they have latent tuberculosis with a skin test or blood test, the CDC website said. Austin said screening focuses on people who are at increased risk, such as people with compromised immune systems. Screening also focuses on health care workers, as well as people who work in long-term care and day care facilities.