Drug-Resistant TB Patient Sparks Concerns About Spread Of Rare Tuberculosis Strain [Video]

A drug-resistant TB patient has sparked concerns about the spread of a deadly form of tuberculosis in the United States. Illinois health officials are still attempting to locate individuals the unidentified woman may have come into contact with after she became ill with the hard-to-treat form of tuberculosis, according to health officials.

Tuberculosis has reportedly been on the decline in America for many years, but the disease is the cause of 1.5 million deaths and 9 million illnesses globally each year. Approximately three to four cases of TB are reported in the United States on an annual basis.

The drug-resistant TB patient may have come in contact with hundreds of people after exhibiting tuberculosis symptoms. The drug-resistant form of TB is known as XDR-TB. State health officials are reportedly working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to locate and alert individuals the female patient may have had “prolonged direct contact” with in “close quarters.”

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that spread through the air and then from person to person. TB usually affects the lungs and often leads to chest pain and coughing up blood. Individuals can have TB for weeks before they become “acutely ill.”

The drug-resistant TB patient reportedly flew to the United States from India in April. She arrived into the country at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The tuberculosis patient then reportedly spent time in Missouri, Tennessee, and Illinois before becoming ill. She was admitted to an isolation unit at a Chicago hospital for treatment approximately seven weeks after arriving in America. She has reportedly been transferred to the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, and being housed in a specialized isolation room for patients with respiratory issues.

“Besides concerns about community contacts, the patient flew from India to the United States. CDC will obtain the passenger manifest for that flight from the airline and will begin a contact investigation,” a release from the health agency said. “Although the risk of getting a contagious disease on an airplane is low, public health officers sometimes need to find and alert travelers who may have been exposed to an ill passenger.”

The drug-resistant TB patient is reportedly facing months and even years of treatment. There is reportedly a 30 to 50 percent cure rate for this type of tuberculosis. Some inflicted patients have had “pockets” of infection surgically removed from their bodies.

TB is not as easily spread as diseases like the flu or measles, health officials maintain. Tuberculosis is still regarded as both a dangerous and contagious illness. TB can be especially harmful for individuals with weakened immune systems, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said.

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