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Tuberculosis Increases Risk of Severe Brain Injuries in CA

LOS ANGELES, California — California is witnessing a concerning surge in active tuberculosis (TB) cases, with approximately 2,100 reported instances by March 25, 2024, marking a significant 15% increase compared to the previous year, according to preliminary data. The rise in cases primarily involved individuals with latent TB infections that transitioned into active stages, rendering them sick and contagious to others.

Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, Orange County’s health officer, emphasized the critical importance for healthcare providers to remain vigilant. “What we want providers to know is that when any individual comes to them presenting with respiratory symptoms, they need to start thinking about is: Is this potentially a person who is at risk of having TB?” she stressed in an interview.

TB, a bacterial disease, primarily affects the lungs and spreads through airborne transmission via coughs and sneezes. However, particularly concerning is the potential for TB to cause severe brain injuries. This occurs when the bacteria spread from the lungs to the brain, leading to a condition known as tuberculous meningitis, resulting in inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, leading to neurological complications such as seizures, paralysis, and cognitive impairment.

According to CDPH’s report, approximately 85% of the TB cases in California stemmed from individuals whose latent TB infections progressed into active stages, about 5% of cases were attributed to individuals arriving from outside the United States with active TB, and the remaining 10% resulted from recent TB transmissions. 

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a stark advisory, warning California residents to be careful about symptoms of active TB cases. However, while alarming, health officials also noted that this surge merely reflects a return to pre-pandemic levels.

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