Tuberculosis case reported at Wilmington care center

DOVER — More than 600 people may have been exposed to tuberculosis at ManorCare Health Services in Wilmington last year. The Division of Public Health announced Friday the care facility, located on Foulk Road, housed someone with active TB from January to September.

The agency mailed letters to potentially infected individuals Friday and plans to call them Tuesday. On June 4, 5 and 6 from 8:30 to 11:30 and 1 to 3:30, individuals can visit DPH’s Hudson State Service Center, located at 501 Ogletown Road in Newark, for free screening.

Anyone unable to make the testing dates is urged to call DPH at 1-866-408-1899. Former staff and patients who live in Kent or Sussex counties can also call that number to have their information passed along to DHSS employees who will call them back to schedule an appointment. Tests for Kent County residents will take place at Williams State Service Center staff in Dover, and Sussex countians will be given a time to visit the Adams State Service Center staff in Georgetown for an appointment.

Individuals are asked to bring the letter they received from DPH when they arrive at any site for testing. If someone is physically unable to make it to the sites, he or she can call DPH to discuss testing options.

“This is an all hands-on-deck approach for us,” DPH Director Karyl Rattay said in a statement. “The most important thing we want people to know is that TB is treatable. That’s why it’s so important for us to reach out to all former residents and staff, to encourage them to get tested as soon as possible. Manor house leadership is working closely with the DPH and taking every measure necessary to protecting the health of its residents and staff.”

Seven other states are now home to former staff or residents who may have been infected. In addition to sending those individuals letters, DPH is coordinating with the states’ public health agencies.

Although the risk of transmission is generally low, DPH is recommending those who have been exposed and test positive after a TB skin or blood test receive further medical evaluation and treatment so they do not develop complications from the disease.

TB is caused by a bacterium spread through the air, and an individual is most likely to catch it if he or she is regularly around someone with the disease, be they a family member or coworker. It cannot be caught through casual contact such as shaking hands or through brief contact like kissing or sharing food.

Signs and symptoms of active TB may include a progressively worsening cough that lasts more than two weeks, as well as fatigue, weakness, weight loss, night sweats, fever, chills and chest pain. It can affect any bodily organ but is infectious to others only when it occurs in the lungs or larynx.

Most people who become infected never show symptoms, as the body is able to fight off the bacteria. The bacteria do remain in the body, however, in a form known as latent TB. Latent TB is not spread to others, although it can become active later.

Individuals who have HIV, are sick with other diseases, inject illegal drugs or were not treated properly for TB in the past are most at risk, as are young and elderly people.

Active TB is treated by taking several medications for six to nine months. About 5 percent to 10 percent of persons infected with the bacteria will develop active TB at some point, with most occurring within the first two years after the infection.

Treatment is shorter for those with the latent form.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state 10.4 million people were sickened by TB in 2016, just 9,272 cases were diagnosed in the United States. Maryland and New Jersey both reported rates higher than the national average in 2016.

TB is much more likely in the developing world, and more than half of cases in 2016 occurred in India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines and Pakistan. About 85 percent of TB deaths were in Africa or Southeast Asia.

There were 16 cases of active TB in Delaware in 2017 and eight so far this year, according to DPH.

For additional information, visit the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/tb/default.htm and learn about DPH’s TB eradication efforts at http://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/dpc/tbservices.html.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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