News Releases > Case of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis identified in Allen County
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Jan 12, 2012). – The Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health has identified a case of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and is doing everything necessary to manage the situation and to prevent any additional cases from occurring.
The individual in question is now in isolation and undergoing treatment. So far no one else associated with this individual has been identified with active tuberculosis disease, although testing is ongoing.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that is caused by a bacterium. Although TB infection can occur anywhere in the body, it usually is found in the lungs. In most cases, TB is treatable; however, persons with TB can die if they do not get proper treatment.
TB is spread the same way that cold and flu viruses are spread: through the air. Whenever someone with active TB sneezes, coughs, or spits, the bacteria is released into the air. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected. TB is not spread by kissing, shaking hands or touching objects such as bed linens or toilet seats. It usually requires close contact over a period of time.
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) is spread the same way as regular TB, but it is much more difficult to treat because it does not respond to the common drugs used to treat TB. There are drugs available that can treat MDR TB but they are costly and the treatment is lengthy.
The Department of Health has been working closely with experts at the Indiana State Department of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Global Tuberculosis Institute in New Jersey since the case was first identified in late December. Tests to determine the resistance of a particular strain of TB to various drugs usually take several weeks to complete and only in the last few days was the case confirmed to be MDR TB.
The Department of Health has tested the infected person’s immediate family and close contacts. Since the individual was taking classes through Fort Wayne Community Schools for several weeks while experiencing symptoms, the individual could have exposed others to TB infection. Although the risk is considered low, the Department of Health took the precaution to test those students and staff who may have spent time with the individual, either in a classroom or riding on the bus.
Parents of students who might be affected were contacted by phone and a letter was also sent home to families to explain the situation and provide additional information. A second round of TB skin testing is required in 8 to 10 weeks to rule out TB infection so it will likely be a few months before health officials know if any one else was infected and needs to be on treatment.
“Because we know that some of the individuals being tested are high risk for having a prior TB exposure, we anticipate having some positive skin tests during the first round of testing” says Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan. “We will need to be careful in how we interpret these results and it will likely be some time before we know if any of these positive cases are linked to this index case.”
Even if someone is infected with TB bacteria, it does not mean the person will get TB disease. Most people who become infected do not develop TB disease because their body's defenses protect them. Only people with symptoms of active TB disease can spread the disease to others.
The general symptoms of TB disease include feelings of sickness or weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. The symptoms of TB disease of the lungs may also include coughing, chest pain, and coughing up blood. Symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected.
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. People who feel strongly that they may have been infected with TB, recently or many years ago, should get a TB skin test.
For more information please see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site at www.cdc.gov. A fact sheet on multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is also included with this release.
The Department of Health has also set up a TB hotline for people with questions or concerns. The phone number is (260) 449-8739.
About Multidrug-resistant Tuberculosis (MDR TB )
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) is a form of tuberculosis that is resistant to two or more of the primary drugs used for the treatment of tuberculosis. Drug-resistant TB is difficult and costly to treat and can be fatal. The success of treatment depends upon how quickly a case of TB is identified as drug resistant and whether an effective drug therapy is available. The main cause of MDR TB is the inadequate treatment or improper use of the anti-tuberculosis medications.