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Surgeon General: Treatment in Prison Can Prevent Disease Outside

January 13, 2004

Tuberculosis cases in Mississippi have steadily declined for more than a decade, thanks in part to cooperation between its health department and prison system, said Dr. Ed Thompson, deputy director for public health services at CDC and Mississippi's former state health officer.

In the late 1980s, the state's TB rate was far above the national average, Thompson told the American Correctional Association (ACA) meeting in New Orleans on Monday. But by 2001, it had fallen below the national average, he said. "Mississippi is the only state to have a decline in tuberculosis cases every year," said Thompson, speaking at an ACA panel titled "Correctional Health Care Solutions Through Partnerships: Improving the Health of the Nation."

According to Thompson, state public health programs ensured that all TB patients in the general population and in the prison system took the prescribed antibiotics and made sure that outside nurses knew when TB-infected inmates were being released.

"Nobody told us you had to have cooperative agreements and had to have money change hands between the Department of Health and the Department of Corrections," said Thompson, who ran the health department for nine years and worked there for 22. "We said, 'We work for the same state... Let's get together and solve our problem.'"

Earlier, Surgeon General Dr. Richard H. Carmona told the group that public health systems and prisons must work together by screening and treating inmates to slow the spread of diseases like HIV and TB. "We need better linkages between corrections and community health centers and local public health agencies to ensure that those who are released do not 'fall through the system' once again," said Carmona in his prepared remarks.

Carmona said his office and CDC plan to study prison health care and make recommendations on correctional and community health. "Together we can bring hope to some of these seemingly hopeless situations," he said.

Back to other news for January 13, 2004

Adapted from:
Associated Press

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Tuberculosis (TB) Fact Sheet
Questions and Answers About Tuberculosis
More on Treating Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS