Alaska reporting an increase in TB cases

Alaskan public health officials recently announced they are seeing an increase in suspected and confirmed cases of tuberculosis among those living in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region in the western portion of the state.

Officials from the Alaskan Department of Health and Social Services said that the cases are located in several villages in the delta region but did not identify them, according to TheNewsTribune.com.

The state is currently developing a plan to begin a TB control program throughout the region beginning next month.

The health department recommends that people who have been in contact with someone known to be infected with TB within the last year be screened as soon as possible. They also recommend screenings for those with TB symptoms, such as a persistent cough, weight loss, fatigue or bloody cough.

Alaska has one of the highest TB infection rates in the United States.

"TB is a very big problem in Alaska," Dr. Michael Cooper, the head of Alaska's Infectious Disease program, said, KTVA.com reports. "Every sweep, it seems, whether it's two different villages or the city of Anchorage, we will frequently turn up people."

Alaska recently adopted more aggressive tactics to identify and treat TB cases. They are considered to be effective, providing citizens continue to cooperate with recommended screenings.

Alaska Natives, Asians and Pacific Islanders have traditionally been at a higher risk of catching the illness because of isolated living conditions and because their countries of origin may have had higher infection rates to begin with, according to KTVA.com.