Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock) (07.13.12)
The Arkansas Department of Health told lawmakers on Thursday that certain people at low risk for TB should not be routinely tested as is currently required. Department rules now mandate testing of new teachers at public schools and kindergartens, emergency personnel, employees at private or parochial schools, daycare facilities, outpatient drug or alcohol facilities, and migrant worker centers.
State TB Control Officer Dr. Naveen Patil said the rule change, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 2013, if passed, would allow the department to focus its resources on groups of people more likely to contract the disease. Patil said it has been decades since a case of TB has been found among workers in those settings where the rule change is sought. “We just want to make sure we target the highest risk population,” he said, adding that the department tests more than 100,000 people annually.
In 2011, there were 85 active TB cases in Arkansas, department spokesperson Ann Russell said. Also in 2011, 43 of the state’s 75 counties had no TB cases, and 15 counties had only one case. Most cases were found in Pulaski and Washington counties. Almost all involved people born in other countries or the elderly, Russell added.
Those still required to undergo annual TB testing are employees of hospitals and other medical facilities, homeless shelters, and nursing homes, as well as inmates and people likely to stay in a homeless shelter for at least 14 days. Patil said foreign-born students who attend Arkansas universities are also tested.
In the Legislature, the proposed change is now before the Rules and Regulations Committee.