By Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, March 19, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- As health officials in Kansas struggle with an outbreak of tuberculosis at a local high school, federal officials reported Thursday that the annual decline in U.S. cases is slowing.
In 2014, there were slightly more than 9,400 TB cases in the United States, a rate of three cases per 100,000 people. That's about 2 percent lower than the TB rate in 2013, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, "This decline in the rate of TB was the smallest decrease in more than a decade and suggests the need for ongoing evaluation of TB elimination strategies overall and within high-risk populations," the CDC researchers wrote.
According to the CDC, tuberculosis is more common in certain groups, particularly foreign-born people, who have a TB rate 13 times higher than those born in the United States. Compared to whites, the TB rate is 29 times higher among Asians and eight times higher among blacks and Hispanics.
Despite the increased risk among certain groups of people, anyone can get TB. Exposure to the disease can occur in any location where people are in close contact with each other.
Last week, more than 300 students and staff at Olathe Northwest High School in Kansas were tested after a reported case of TB at the school. The testing identified 27 more cases of TB.
Another round of tests will be offered in early May for those possibly exposed, because it can take up to eight weeks for TB to give a positive result, health officials said.
An infectious disease that tends to settle in the lungs and can be fatal, tuberculosis can strike almost any part of the body. It is spread through the air, typically when someone with the disease in their lungs coughs, laughs, sneezes, sings or speaks.
The consequences of TB can be devastating, especially for people with multidrug-resistant or extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis. They face years of difficult and expensive treatments that can cause severe side effects, the CDC researchers said.
Multidrug-resistant TB accounted for 1.3 percent (96 cases) of all TB cases in the United States in 2013. There was one case of extensively drug-resistant TB in 2014.
Eliminating tuberculosis in the United States requires focusing on high-risk groups and improving awareness, testing and treatment of the disease, according to the study in the March 20 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a CDC publication.