An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tuberculosis on the rise in Washington State

Tuberculosis cases are rising internationally and in Washington state.

Tuberculosis cases are on the rise in Washington State. Health officials are urging to be on the lookout for the disease, and urging people who live, work or travel to places where its known to circulate, to take precautions.

Washington State Health Officials say Tuberculosis cases are at a 20 - year high. There were 199 cases diagnosed in the state in 2021 and 70 cases have been detected so far in 2022. Several Eastern Washington counties, including Spokane, had Tuberculosis clusters, or at least one positive case last year. Spokane has not yet had a case this year, but Adams County, along with Chelan, Douglas, Benton, Franklin and Yakima County, have had cases.

Monica Pecha, the Tuberculosis program manager at the Washington State Department of Health, says there are a few factors that have led to the diseases’ rise, such as pandemic stress on the healthcare system.

“Symptoms of COVID and TB can mirror one another at times, making it a little difficult to diagnose,” Pecha said. “We think people were probably getting delayed diagnoses, or misdiagnoses that have led to this as well.”

She says Tuberculosis is not as contagious as COVID, it takes several hours of exposure to contract it. Most Washington residents are not at risk. People who are incarcerated or homeless are at an increased risk, as well as people who work in prisons or shelters.

People who travel to countries where the disease is more prevalent are also at risk.

She says those groups should seek medical attention and testing if they develop symptoms, which include coughing, fever, chest pain and fatigue.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.