One case of tuberculosis disease (TB) and 500 cases of “possible exposures” to the infection among children were identified in Douglas County, Nebraska.
DCHD sent an email to notify parents/guardians of exposed children on Nov. 8. Other individuals who may have been exposed to the patient will receive an email directly.
“So, if you develop tuberculosis disease, it does not go away without treatment. So, it's critical, and it's especially critical with young children, again, who can develop severe disease fairly quickly. It can be severe. It does often progress to meningitis and potentially even death. So it's really critical that we move rapidly.”
“It's not in emergency. We're not suggesting that folks run off to the emergency room, but utilize the clinic that we have set up. If they have questions, they can call the health department at 402-444-3400. That's our information line,” he said.
A clinic was set up at the pediatric hospital Children's Nebraska on Nov. 11 and 12 to test kids exposed to the patient within the last 10 weeks.
The clinic targeted children under the age of four “that are going to need what we call window prophylaxis or preventative treatment that will keep them from developing TB disease while we test them.”
Three clinics will be set up in DCHD for testing between Nov. 15 and 17, he said. “Those are going to be for any children that are over the age of five or that were exposed more than 10 weeks ago.”
When a reporter asked about the DCHD’s announcement of a potentially forthcoming declaration of a public health emergency (DHM), Mr. Frederick clarified that “this is not a DHM. We are not ordering anything.”
Seriousness of TuberculosisAccording to the DCHD press release, TB cases are “relatively rare,” and the agency is “experienced at managing them.” The county “had 15 confirmed cases in 2022 and had 15 cases through September of this year.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported over 8,000 cases this year in the country.
“Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. As a result, two TB-related conditions exist: latent TB infection (LTBI) and TB disease.”
Other symptoms include weight loss, fever, no appetite, and weakness or fatigue. People with latent TB infection do not show any such symptoms.
TB does not spread by kissing, sharing food or drinks, sharing toothbrushes, shaking other people’s hands, or touching bed linens and toilet seats, per the agency.
“There was a time when it was in use, [but now] it is not. There are other countries that still do utilize that vaccine. It's called the BCG vaccine. And so certainly, we do sometimes see foreign-born individuals who've had that vaccine, but we don't use it here in the United States. The efficacy isn't great, and so it's just not something that we offer here,” she said.
As to the patient who has been confirmed to have contracted TB, Ms. Huse said that she believes “they are doing just fine.”
When asked about the identity of the individual, she refused to divulge the information “in order to protect the privacy of that patient.”