Barrett explained to the ABC3340, "The terminology for having the TB germ but not having TB disease is called having TB infection or latent TB infection, that simply means you have the germ in your body that causes TB and at some point in your life you could develop active TB. You may not, but the preventive medicine that we can offer you is sort of like an insurance policy that would protect you from having active TB."
Widespread poverty, a history of racism, and memories of the Tuskegee incident have contributed to the outbreak. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, an infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service, studied the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in Alabama under the pretext of receiving free health care from the United States government. But researchers did not make complete disclosures about their work. The patients were not given penicillin, a recommended treatment after 1947. This added to the mistrust among the people towards public health care systems.
Bennie Royster attended a town hall meeting last week along with about 50 other residents at Francis Marion High School's auditorium. Alabama Public Radio reports that he hasn't been tested for TB but she wanted to come to the meeting for a better understanding of the disease.
She said, "When they sent the flyer out paying people to come and be tested, I'm thinking we've got something bad going on here. Listening at them tonight, I'm less afraid. And if I were to come down with TB, because I asked this question about the privacy act like they said because we've had so many people that have already died in Perry County, I wish I knew the person. Because if I knew the person, then I know to go and be tested."
Although the Alabama Department of Public Health is taking the necessary measures to curb the tuberculosis outbreak, it will be a long haul considering the nature of the disease and the time of treatment.
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