Fulton Health Department Among 12 Groups Named CDC "TB Elimination Champion"
The rate of Tuberculosis (TB) has sharply declined in Fulton County and metro Atlanta since an outbreak in downtown shelters serving the homeless that threatened to spread in 2014. ¬† ¬†
Fulton's Chief Clinical Officer of Communicable Disease Prevention, Dr. David Holland, reports the incidence of TB is the lowest it has ever been. Dr. Holland says the 2016 figures show that the total number of homeless and non-homeless TB cases reported in 2016 (n=44) decreased by 30 percent from the total number of homeless and non-homeless cases in 2015 (n=63) and down 76 percent from the total number of homeless and non-homeless cases in 2000 (n=183).
The decline in TB is directly attributable to the aggressive approach to addressing the near crisis in 2014. ¬† The Fulton County Communicable Disease Team established relationships with the shelters involved and community partners such as Mercy Care, Inc., and the American Lung Association, among many others. ¬† Teams of investigators visited the shelters weekly to insure screening protocols for clients and staff were being followed and to offer technical assistance in improving infection control procedures. ¬† ¬† The strategy also included establishing TB prevention standards in the shelters and educating the homeless population about the risks of contracting the disease. ¬†
¬†‚ÄúUsing this approach, Fulton County has maintained a treatment completion rate that is above the state and national average for the fifth consecutive year,‚ÄĚ explains Dr. Holland.
¬†The Results of Fulton County‚Äôs Strategic TB Prevention Actions Include:
- Increased public health safety standards and reduced TB transmissions from 43 homeless persons in 2014 to 10 homeless persons in 2016.
- 5,391 homeless persons at high risk of having TB screened in 2016.
- 783 estimated Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) visits by Fulton County outreach workers who observed TB patients taking their medication for Latent TB Infection and monitored patients for any adverse reactions.
- 156 estimated visits to homeless shelters for TB screening. ¬† Screenings were done 2-3 times per week at all metro-Atlanta homeless shelters.
More than 15,000 people received screening and treatment in the TB clinic at Aldredge Health Center in 2016. ¬†
‚ÄúThe rate of TB has dropped to its lowest rate ever due to the hard work of our clinic, field, and surveillance staff working together alongside our community partners,‚ÄĚ Holland further adds.
More about TB ‚Äď A local, National and Global Health Threat
¬†In Fulton County, homelessness has historically been a strong risk factor for developing active TB disease. Over the past decade, an average of 29% of persons with TB disease in Fulton County reported experiencing homelessness within the 12 months prior to their TB diagnosis. ¬† In step with the rest of the United States, Fulton County has continued to see a decline in the number of new Tuberculosis (TB) cases reported within its borders in the past decade (2006 ‚Äď 2016). Though it has remained one of the highest contributors to Georgia State‚Äôs TB case numbers, very significant progress has been made in reducing TB among the inhabitants of the county.
Nationally and globally, tuberculosis has been designated as a public health threat by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ¬† TB impacts more than one-third of the world‚Äôs population causing 10.4 million people to become sick each year and claiming 1.8 million lives in TB related deaths worldwide, according to the CDC.