According to Spiller, the hospital has followed the nationwide trend that shows a lowering in the number of cases, even though Alabama as a whole has seen an increase.
“We had two cases in 2010 and one in 2011 so I guess you could say we cut the number in half,” Spiller said with a laugh. “We are still below the national average and we are considered ‘low incidence.’”
Across the state, Alabama saw 161 diagnosed cases of TB in 2011, which marks approximately a 10 percent increase over 2010. A few weeks ago a case in Tuscaloosa was the 83rd case of 2012 so far.
Statewide, officials say many of the cases have occurred in immigrants and those with compromised immune systems, including those with HIV. According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, approximately 60 percent of the cases of TB in the United States over the last two years were among foreign-born individuals, largely those of Asian descent, who are 22 times more likely to develop the infection.
The bacteria that causes TB is airborne and attacks the lungs, causing persistent coughing that often produces blood, weight loss, fever, night sweats and fatigue.
Spiller says that anyone who believes they may have been exposed to TB should seek medical help and get a TB test. There are also steps that the hospital takes and that individuals can take to reduce their risks of contracting it.
“Stay six feet away from people with respiratory illness because you don’t know what they have,” Spiller advised. “We offer surgical masks, tissues and hand sanitizer when you come into the hospital.”