Shelby County, Tennessee aggressive against TB

The states of Tennessee and Shelby County have adopted an aggressive approach to diagnosing and treating tuberculosis.

Shelby County, which includes the city of Memphis, leads the state in diagnosed cases of the highly-contagious illness, according to the Commercial Appeal.

There were 49 TB cases in Shelby County last year and a total of 156 in the entire state. The Nashville area had 38 cases.

The Shelby County Health Department Tuberculosis Control Program receives an annual budget of $1.68 million and received an additional $300,400 last month from the Tennessee Department of Health. The county health department uses the funding to cover the costs of diagnosing and treating TB patients.

The county requires that a newly diagnosed TB patient remain in quarantine for two weeks while visited daily by a healthcare worker trained to administer medicine and watch for side effects. The treatment program regularly lasts for six months, but can be as long as three years, the Commercial Appeal reports.

State law requires that healthcare professionals that suspect a patient has contracted TB report it immediately to their county health department, which then takes over testing and treatment.

"It's not uncommon for doctors to not have tuberculosis on their radar," Dr. Jon Warkentin, a tuberculosis control officer and medical director of the TB Elimination Program with the Tennessee Department of Health, said, reports. "And that's not just a Memphis, issue, that's a national issue."