USA wakes up after another death due to drug-susceptible TB

Photo by [Crewe]The death of a Nepalese woman of drug-susceptible TB on 8 June 2007 set off a frantic contact tracing measures in Colorado, USA, with 149 people tested for TB so far.

Drug-susceptible TB is treatable, curable and many countries including USA have been receiving accolades for successfully providing free treatment for drug-susceptible TB.

Is it surprising that the developed world couldn't wake up to TB despite of nearly 2 million TB deaths globally year after year and needs another TB death on its own home turf to respond? And this was fortunately not a case of drug-resistant TB or extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), rather a case of drug-sensitive TB that remain undiagnosed in the United States of America.

A 19 year-old student from Nepal, Kalpana Dangol, who was studying in the Colorado State University in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, had contracted drug-susceptible TB. She died in June this year after she was taken to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs hours after her hospital admission.

Instead of finding loopholes on how can a foreign University student in USA, who periodically needs mandatory medical examinations, had remained undiagnosed for TB, resulting in the student's death, the University provided the Pueblo County Health Department with a list of 174 students who shared classes with the Nepali student. Of those students, 149 were tested.

Out of these 149 students tested for TB after the death of Nepali student due to TB, 17 cases tested positive for latent TB. 10 out of these 17 students, are receiving Isoniazid-prevention-therapy (INH) for nine months to get completely cured of TB. The other seven have moved or are refusing treatment. Those who refuse treatment are not tracked by public health agencies because they are not infectious and therefore not a threat to public health.

People who are infected with latent tuberculosis are not contagious and have no symptoms. The body usually is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing.

About 5 percent to 10 percent of people infected with latent TB will develop active TB in their lifetime. Those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to the disease.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS