Iraq: Soldiers at Risk for Contracting TB
March 25, 2003
Large numbers of Iraqi soldiers and civilians are infected with tuberculosis and pose a long-term health risk to allied forces, said Dr. Paul Dungan, director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, at a World TB Day conference in Oklahoma City Monday. "That's not well-publicized. But our troops over there are at risk," he said. Dr. Jon Tillinghast, TB control officer for the state Health Department, said he expects all military personnel to be tested immediately upon returning from overseas -- and a second time three months later.
One-third of the world's population has some level of TB infection. Most have a latent infection. Only 5 percent to 10 percent of people with TB will progress to the active form of the disease -- 20,000 people every day, according to the latest world health data. People with latent TB are not contagious.
More than 4,000 Oklahoma National Military Guard members and reservists are serving overseas, and other Oklahoma military personnel are stationed in the Middle East and Europe. Forces fighting in Iraq have a greater risk of contracting TB than troops stationed in the Persian Gulf during 1991's Operation Desert Storm because they will likely be there longer and in closer contact with larger numbers of Iraqi soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians, Tillinghast said.
"We can't forget that Oklahoma has an ongoing TB problem," said Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. About 200 Oklahoma cases are reported annually to the Health Department, with at least 10 deaths a year attributed to the disease. An outbreak in southwest Oklahoma in 2001 and 2002 resulted in 38 cases. Officials from the Health Department, CDC and local health departments in Comanche, Jackson and Tillman counties continue to monitor that outbreak.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.