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Published on January 30, 2024
Surge in Tuberculosis Cases Concerns Santa Clara County, New Clinic Aims to Tackle Public Health ChallengeSource: Santa Clara County Public Health

Santa Clara County is facing an unsettling uptick in tuberculosis cases, with public health officials reporting a 19 percent surge in new diagnoses for 2023. This increase comes from a previous six percent rise in tuberculosis diagnoses in 2022. Consequently, the community now grapples with a growing health concern as TB diagnoses become more widespread, posing particular danger to vulnerable groups like small children living with untreated infected adults, the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department confirmed.

As the numbers climb, health authorities are stepping up and calling on those at higher risk to get tested and seek treatment for the contagious disease, which, while not an official outbreak, represents a significant community health risk. TB, infamous as the world's second leading infectious killer after COVID, can be diagnosed with a simple skin or blood test. Despite the dramatic statistics, most individuals with a TB infection carry the latent form, which is non-contagious and symptomless, yet calls for medical attention to prevent the development of active disease, which is infectious and potentially deadly.

In light of the recent data, the public health department is launching an awareness campaign targeting those most at risk, encouraging anyone with certain health conditions or life circumstances to consult their doctors about TB. At risk groups include individuals from countries with prevalent TB, people who have been in contact with TB patients, or those with conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, cancer, or HIV, as well as people on immunosuppressive medications. Dr. Ann Loeffler, Assistant Health Officer and TB Controller for the County, commented, “For the majority of people getting diagnosed with TB in Santa Clara County, it’s likely they had the bacteria that causes TB for many years and didn’t know it," and emphasized the importance of early detection and treatment.

The battle against TB in Santa Clara County is bolstered by the brand-new VHC Lundy Tuberculosis Clinic, which provides comprehensive health assessments and treatment and features a state-of-the-art airborne isolation facility to curb the spread of airborne diseases. Dr. Harleen Sahni with Santa Clara Valley Healthcare stated, “We are seeing a rise in Tuberculosis cases, but once we can identify a case, we can quickly begin treatment to cure the patient.” The clinic stands as Santa Clara County's only dedicated TB clinic and is eyeing to nip the TB surge in the bud.

With TB potentially impacting any part of the body, the associated symptoms - persistent cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, fever, and weight loss - should be red flags prompting medical consultation. Santa Clara County's data shows that nearly all TB cases diagnosed in 2023 were among individuals born outside the U.S., although most had been U.S. residents for over ten years. Local health initiatives are intensifying efforts to ensure TB patients receive tailored care to complete their treatment and identify contacts needing preventive measures, highlighting the need for increased routine screenings and treatment as part of preventative care.