The Division of Public Health under the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. is commemorating World Tuberculosis Day or World TB Day today, March 24.
World TB Day celebrates heightened public awareness of the global epidemic of tuberculosis and efforts to eliminate the disease.
DPH Medical Director Dr. Daniel Lamar said the CNMI is recognizing this significant day and wants everybody to be aware about TB.
“This will highlight the significance and the need to address TB that happens in the world, but most specifically addressing it to the community of the CNMI,” he said.
According to Lamar, TB has been a known disease for about 100 years and is still pretty much around despite advanced treatment options for this disease.
Lamar said the prevalence rate for the U.S is about 3 per 100,000 but the prevalence rate is a lot higher in Third World countries.
He said TB is a serious infectious disease and is a threat to people’s health around the world. It is mostly found in Asia and Africa and is a common cause of death in these two continents.
“Here in the CNMI, we had a prevalence rate of about 100 new cases per year 10 years ago. Now we brought it down to less than 30 new cases per year. We have a high rate because Pacific Islanders and Asians such as those from China and the Philippines have some of the highest [rates],” he said. “We’ve done a great job in decreasing that number.”
DPH has a program called “Stop TB” to deal with the challenges of TB and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funds this program, he said.
Lamar said people who are most likely to get TB are those with diabetes, smokers, or any health problems that weaken the immune system.
Screening is possible at the Chest Clinic and is offered to anyone regardless of ability to pay, nationality, or status.
Prolonged symptoms of TB are coughing that doesn’t go away, fever that may persist, coughing up blood, unexplained weight loss, or a weak feeling.
“If people think they may have TB, they can get screened. It’s treatable and treatment is prolonged usually from six to nine months involving different procedures. They can call the Chest Clinic for more information if needed,” he said.
For more information about TB and CHCC’s Chest Clinic screening, call 236-8376.