During the next month, teams from YKHC and the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) will visit multiple villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to perform tuberculosis (TB) screenings. For privacy reasons, YKHC does not release the names of communities or sub-regions with TB outbreaks to the public.
School districts are partnering with YKHC to coordinate testing in schools. School leaders will distribute information and consent forms to students and families. Parental consent is required for a student to receive a TB test.
The teams will perform TB skin tests, or Mantoux PPD tuberculin test (sometimes called the bubble test), which identify TB infection. People who are tested will need to have results read by nursing staff 48 to 72 hours after the initial test. Individuals who test positive for TB will be notified and treatment will be provided.
Tuberculosis cases in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta are trending above average this year. Testing is essential to stopping the spread of TB. All residents in the YK Delta can help combat TB by calling their local health clinic for a test if they have symptoms of TB or believe they have been exposed to TB.
Tuberculosis is a preventable and curable infectious disease caused by bacteria. Most people infected with the bacteria that cause TB do not have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they usually include prolonged cough (sometimes blood-tinged), chest pain, weight loss, night sweats, and fever.
TB bacteria are spread through the air when a person with TB coughs, speaks, or sings; they are not spread by touching a person or sharing food or drink. People with TB are most likely to spread it to those they spend time with every day, such as family members, friends, coworkers, or classmates.
Not every person who has TB can spread it to others. People who are infected with TB, and do not have symptoms are said to have latent TB. People with latent TB cannot spread the TB bacteria to others. However, without treatment, latent TB bacteria can become active in the body and multiply. When this happens, the person will go from having latent TB infection to being sick with active TB disease, and can spread the disease to others. If gone untreated it can cause severe illness and death. Treatment of latent TB infection is essential to controlling TB in Alaska.
YKHC and the DHSS Division of Public Health will continue to monitor TB in the YK Delta and make follow up visits to communities in the fall.