Health Department announces change in TB Skin Tests due to shortage

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Morehead City, N.C. (WNCT) – As a result of a nationwide shortage of the purified protein derivative (PPD) used in TB skin testing, the Carteret County Health Department is offering limited routine tuberculosis, or TB, skin test screenings.

Starting today, TB skin tests will only be given to those considered high-risk, such as those recently exposed to people with tuberculosis disease, those born in or frequently traveling to countries where tuberculosis is common, those living in large group settings like homeless shelters or correctional facilities, or those with weak immune systems and high-risk children.

The North Carolina Tuberculosis Control Program has recommended local health departments and hospitals to defer TB skin tests during this shortage for lower-risk individuals.

Lower risk individuals include, but are not limited to, childcare facility staff, healthcare workers, teachers, bus drivers, and food service employees.

Health Department nurses will keep a log to follow-up with those deferred once the shortage is over.

In addition, they will provide documentation of deferral for anyone needing it for work or school.

“At this time, it is unclear when supplies of tuberculin will return to normal,” said Kim Davis, RN, Health Department Nursing Director. By deferring TB testing during this storage for lower-risk individuals, it will preserve the remaining supply during the shortage of at-risk individuals and outbreaks.”

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria that can damage the lungs or other parts of the body like the spine, lymph nodes or kidneys, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

TB is spread through the air from one person to another when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings.

Most people who become infected with TB do not get sick.

This condition is known as latent TB infection (LTBI).

People with LTBI cannot infect other people.

However, without proper antibiotic treatment, the infection can progress to active TB disease.

A person with active TB disease may be infectious to others and must receive treatment for the condition.

By law, physicians must report TB cases to the local health department.

Both LTBI and TB disease require medical attention.

In North Carolina, treatment of both conditions is provided free of charge through local health departments.

For more information about TB testing and treatment, contact the Carteret County Health Department at (252) 728-8550 or visit https://www.carteretcountync.gov/390/Communicable-Disease or https://www.cdc.gov/tb/.

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