Categorized | Health

Department of Health observes World Tuberculosis Day on March 24, 2010


HONOLULU – The Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) joins others across the nation and world to observe World Tuberculosis Day on March 24. On this day in 1882, Robert Koch announced the discovery of tuberculosis (TB) bacillus. Although many people believe that TB is a disease of the past, it is still a leading killer among infectious diseases worldwide.

The state of Hawai‘i has the highest TB case rate in the nation. In 2009, the rate was 9.1 cases for every 100,000 people. There were 118 new cases of active TB disease in Hawai‘i reported to DOH, with O‘ahu reporting the highest number of TB cases in the state. The total number of new TB cases decreased 4.8% from 2008 (124 active TB cases) to 2009 (118 active cases). Over the past decade, Hawai‘i reported an average of 126 new TB cases per year. In 2009, 84.7% of the state’s new TB cases were foreign-born. Preliminary data for 2009 also show 13.6% of all cases had primary drug resistance (16 cases) and 1.7% had multi-drug resistant TB (2 cases). Primary drug resistant TB in Hawaii rose 20.4% from 2008, when 11.3% of all cases had primary drug resistance. There were no cases of multi-drug resistant TB in Hawaii in 2008.

Total active TB cases reported statewide in 2009: 118 (9.1 cases/100,000 population)

2009 cases by county:

  • Hawai‘i County: 8 new TB cases (4.6 cases/100,000)
  • Honolulu County: 84 new TB cases (9.3 cases/100,000)
  • Kaua‘i County: 10 new TB cases (15.7 cases/100,000)
  • Maui County: 16 new TB cases (11.1 cases/100,000)

Last year, Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) clinics placed and read over 51,000 tuberculin skin tests statewide; among these, 6.1% were positive. Most of these persons had latent TB infection and were offered treatment with 9 months of antibiotics to prevent progression to active TB disease.

TB is a disease that is commonly seen in the lungs and can be spread from person-to- person through the air. When a person with active TB disease in the lung or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings, tiny drops containing M. tuberculosis may be spread into the air. If another person inhales these drops there is a chance that they will become infected with TB. Two forms of TB exist, both of which are treatable and curable:

  1. Latent TB infection – when a person has TB bacteria in their body but the body’s immune system is protecting them and they are not sick. Someone with latent TB infection cannot spread the infection to other people.
  2. Active TB disease – when a person becomes sick with TB because their immune system can no longer protect them. Someone with active TB disease may be able to spread the disease to other people.

A schedule of free TB testing available at locations statewide is at

For more information on tuberculosis, please call the State of Hawai‘i Tuberculosis Control Program at (808) 832-5731 or visit the Department of Health Web site at

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