The Maricopa County Department of Public Health is working with a northern Scottsdale hospital to investigate a possible case of tuberculosis at the facility.
County health officials have reason to believe that a patient at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center had contracted TB, an infectious and potentially-deadly disease caused by bacteria that typically attacks the lungs.
Tests to confirm the diagnosis are still pending, according to the county.
“We have not been able to confirm the diagnosis, but because TB cannot be ruled out, we are recommending that exposed patients at high risk be offered preventive treatment to protect them from severe disease,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for Disease Control for Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
The department has reached out to other patients who may have been exposed and recommended that they receive a TB evaluation and, if necessary, preventative treatment.
The department said that it has already contacted all patients at risk of exposure and any individuals who spent time at the hospital and have not been contacted are not considered at risk from the exposure. Health officials are not recommending those individuals be tested.
TB is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which typically attacks the lungs but can attack any part of the body, including the kidney, spine and brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Symptoms of active tuberculosis disease include a bad cough, chest pain, weakness or fatigue, no appetite, chills, fever and night sweats, according to the county.
There are no symptoms of a latent tuberculosis infection, which happens when a person has inactive TB germs living in their body and does not show signs of being sick.
More than 80 percent of TB cases in the U.S. involve reactivation of long-standing untreated latent infections, according to the CDC.
According to the county, people with a latent TB infection can not pass the disease to others.
“If the germs become active, then it becomes active TB disease, at which point it can be passed on to other people. Not all people who are exposed to TB will become infected with latent or active TB,” according to information provided by the county.
Active TB is spread from person to person through the air when an infected person speaks or coughs and others breathe in the bacteria in the air. The bacteria can then settle in the lungs and pass to other parts of the body through the person’s bloodstream.
The CDC says TB is not spread through shaking someone’s hand, sharing food or drink, touching bed linens or toilet seats, sharing toothbrushes or kissing.
According to the CDC’s 2017 TB Surveillance Report, there were reported TB cases in the U.S. declined by 1.6 percent in 2017 versus 2016 to 9,105 cases, the lowest number of cases on record.
That report showed cases of TB were reported in all 50 states and Washington D.C.
Arizona did not show a decline in TB cases between 2016 and 2017, with 188 cases reported in each year. Arizona had the 15th most reported cases in the country in 2017.
The U.S. has one of the lowest rates of TB cases in the world, but it remains a global problem.
The CDC reported that one-fourth of the world’s population is infected with TB and there were 1.3 million deaths related to the disease in 2017.
In 2018, the U.S. joined other members of the United Nations General Assembly in signing a political declaration stating their commitment to stamping out TB globally by 2030.
The declaration included commitments to collective action and investment to find solutions to eradicate the disease around the world.
One of those efforts included a global accelerator launched by the United States Agency for International Development that will invest in local solutions and work with faith-based organizations.
“Simply, the world must do more to end TB,” United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said at the UN meeting.