TB rates in Alabama on the rise

In Alabama, the number of confirmed tuberculosis cases is rising after nearly a decade of decline.

Health officials said that the nature of the illness is changing. The Alabama Department of Public Health said infection rates remain low in those most at risk a generation ago because of advances in treatment and management, but new groups of those at risk have emerged, according to

"The cases are different than the historical TB patients," Pam Barrett, director of the TB program at the ADPH said, reports. "We have a lot of foreign-born TB. We have people with HIV; they're immuno-compromised."

Barrett said health officials are watching this year's TB statistics very closely and strategizing how to minimize new outbreaks.

"The field staff is the key to the decline of TB throughout the state," Barrett said, reports.

The situation in Alabama is consistent with national trends. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 60 percent of all TB cases last year were among foreign-born residents. Those of Asian descent have the highest rates of any single ethnic group. They are 22 percent more likely to have TB than whites, according to CDC.

TB rates in Alabama declined in the 1990s, in part because of more aggressive procedures aimed at limiting exposure to the infected even before the cases are confirmed. In addition, the ADPH administers TB-controlling medication before it receives test results.

"We're not just sitting around," Barrett said, according to "We're gathering information about family, work, things like that. And usually by the second or third day we have our laboratory confirmation. We like to jump right on it."