Commercial Appeal (Memphis) (11.22.12)
The Shelby County Health Department Tuberculosis Control Program has a $1.68 million annual budget, including an additional $300,400 received from the Tennessee Department of Health last month, as the state and county continue an aggressive TB diagnosis and treatment program.
According to Dr. Helen Morrow, county health department health director, Shelby County leads the state with diagnosed cases. In 2006, the county had 38 percent of all cases for the state, with 107 cases. The numbers are improving, with 49 cases for the county and 156 for the state last year, but the county still sees the majority of Tennessee’s cases.
TB transmission can require very little intimate contact, explains Dr. Jon Warkentin, tuberculosis control officer and medical director of the TB Elimination Program with the Tennessee Department of Health, which is why it is often found in jails, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and other places where individuals may live in close contact. Those more vulnerable to the disease are individuals with HIV/AIDS or with compromised immune systems and children under five. It is also more prevalent with African Americans. According to Warkentin, as the state’s TB control officer, prevention of TB transmission to African-American children is of primary importance. The county covers the entire cost of diagnosis and treatment. Tennessee’s aggressive approach to treatment of the disease follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines—which is not the norm for every state, where some TB programs are not adequately funded.