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California tuberculosis rate lowest on record

March 22, 2009|Rong-Gong Lin II

Tuberculosis cases in California have fallen to the lowest level on record, but the state's rate remains one of the highest in the country, state health officials said.

The tuberculosis rate dropped to seven cases per 100,000 people in 2008, down from the previous year when 7.2 cases were reported for every 100,000 people.

In raw numbers, California recorded 2,696 tuberculosis cases in 2008, a decline of 1% from the previous year.

Tuberculosis is a disease caused by a bacterium that is most well-known for being spread by coughing and infecting the lungs. The bacteria can also infect other parts of the body, including the spine, brain and gastrointestinal area. Medication is available to treat tuberculosis.

California's tuberculosis rate remains substantially higher than the national rate, which was 4.2 cases per 100,000 people in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A CDC report released Friday said that the national TB rate has also continued to drop but urged "intensified efforts . . . to address the slowing decline" in tuberculosis cases.

Racial minorities and foreign-born people continued to be disproportionately affected by the disease. In California, there were 22.9 cases of TB for every 100,000 Asian American residents; 8.7 for blacks; and 7.6 for Latinos. The rate was 1.6 per 100,000 for whites and 1.8 for Native Americans.

The declining rate of tuberculosis and its relative rarity have made it difficult for some doctors to diagnose when their patients are sickened by the bacteria, which can lie dormant in infected people for many years.

On Friday -- the same day state health officials announced the overall TB rate in California had dropped -- Long Beach Unified School District administrators said about 170 students and staff at Wilson High would be tested for possible exposure to the disease after it became known there was an infected person on campus.

Officials with the American Lung Assn. in California have scheduled a news conference Monday to talk more about specific trends in TB infections in California.

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ron.lin@latimes.com

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