3 dead after tuberculosis outbreak in Perry County

Original Title: wheal 48.tif
(Photo c/o Wikimedia Commons, 2004 Gabrielle Benenson)

(WIAT) — UPDATE: Pam Barrett, Alabama’s Director of Tuberculosis Control, said there were so many people who showed up for TB testing at the Perry County Health Department Monday, that some were turned away.

Barrett said the heath department can test up to 300 people per day, and that many had signed up by lunchtime. Barrett said she’s optimistic that the people who could not get tested for tuberculosis on Monday will have the opportunity to do so by the end of the month.

She also said there will be a town hall meeting at Marion High School this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. There, she will update residents on the outbreak and give them the opportunity to ask questions.

“This is a meeting open to everyone interested in learning more about the ongoing TB initiative underway in Perry County this month,” Barrett said. “Attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions and have their concerns addressed.”

 

ORIGINAL: The Alabama Department of Public Health is working to stop a tuberculosis outbreak in Perry County. The ADPH is sending extra doctors and nurses to provide preventative treatment to those affected, the majority of who live in the town of Marion in Perry County.

A flyer posted at a grocery store in Marion.
A flyer posted at a grocery store in Marion.

26 patients have been diagnosed with tuberculosis this month — 20 are from Marion, four are from the Tuscaloosa area, and two are from Centreville.

“For us dealing with it in our community, it’s a really bad thing,” Marion resident Reginald Harris said.

Pam Barrett, Alabama’s Director of TB control, said the infection rate in Marion is greater than those in many third world countries.

According to a media release sent by the Perry County Health Department, “This is a case rate of 253 per 100,000 population in the town of Marion. This far exceeds the TB case rate of 2.5 per 100,000 in the whole state of Alabama in 2015. Of these 26 patients, four of them are children. Three adults have died.”

Barrett said the small city of Marion has posed some big obstacles, at a time when information from patients is key to stop the spread of TB. Patients can receive preventative treatment before becoming sick, and the Department of Public Health is trying a new approach to get people into their office.

“This is so important and of such concern that we are giving monetary incentives to people who come in for screening and necessary treatment,” Barrett said.

Symptoms of tuberculosis include a cough lasting over two weeks, shortness of breath, fever, night sweats, weight loss and fatigue. However, you could be infected with the tuberculosis germ and have no symptoms. However, patients can receive preventative treatment before becoming sick.

“People just are not willing to give information to our staff,” Barrett said. “The thing that we’re hoping to accomplish is to find the people who are infected with the bacteria that have not developed disease, that we can get treated preventatively and hopefully find other cases that may be reluctant to come in and be screened.”

From Jan. 11 through Jan. 29, the Perry County Health Department will give:
• $20 to anyone coming in to be screened for TB by the TSPOT blood test.
• Another $20 for returning after three days to get the result.
• A third $20 for keeping an appointment to get a chest X-ray if it is recommended.
• An additional $100 to a patient if it is recommended he or she take medication and
treatment is completed.

Testing will be done on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Perry County Health Department at 1748 S. Washington St., Marion. All services are provided at no charge. No appointment is needed for this service. Call (334) 467-8208 for more information.

“We would just like to offer them a little bit of education that there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you have tuberculosis. it’s very treatable, it’s curable, and preventable,” Barrett said.

Copyright 2016 WIAT 42 News

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