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Kandiyohi County sees decline in tuberculosis cases

WILLMAR -- Tuberculosis cases in Kandiyohi County last year reached their lowest point in at least five years. Kandiyohi County Public Health saw just two cases of active TB in 2018, according to Denise Kragenbring, public health supervisor. The ...

WILLMAR - Tuberculosis cases in Kandiyohi County last year reached their lowest point in at least five years.

Kandiyohi County Public Health saw just two cases of active TB in 2018, according to Denise Kragenbring, public health supervisor.

The number of latent tuberculosis cases also declined for the fourth year in a row.

Information on what's being seen locally with infectious disease was shared recently with the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.

The incidence of tuberculosis in Kandiyohi County is generally low, accounting for fewer than half a dozen active cases per year. A small handful of cases identified in a school setting pushed the total up to six active cases in 2017. The number then dropped to just two last year.

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As of early February, nurses with Kandiyohi County Public Health were following two active cases this year, Kragenbring said.

Active disease is treatable with antibiotics that must be taken for several weeks.

Latent TB is seen more often but these numbers have dropped steadily in recent years, from a high of 182 in 2015 to 57 last year. Latent cases involve infection with the tuberculosis bacteria that hasn't progressed to active disease and can't be spread to others. Public health officials work to identify these cases, however, because they sometimes turn into active disease requiring treatment.

The decline is most likely because of a steep drop last year in the number of new arrivals to Kandiyohi County who were born overseas, Kragenbring said.

"There are fewer new refugees moving in," she said.

Although anyone can get TB, the incidence statewide is highest within the immigrant and refugee population, according to figures from the Minnesota Department of Health. The vast majority of cases occur in Hennepin, Ramsey and metro suburban counties.

Tuberculosis does not spread through casual contact, Kragenbring said. It typically takes prolonged and frequent exposure, such as close living or working conditions, for the disease to be passed on to someone else, she said.

Anytime a new case is confirmed, public health gets involved to track down contacts, determine who else might be at risk and ensure these people are screened, Kragenbring said. "You have to do a lot of investigating, a lot of interviewing."

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Overall, tuberculosis doesn't even crack the list of the top 10 infectious diseases seen most often in Kandiyohi County. Sexually transmitted infections and food- and waterborne illnesses are the most frequent. Chlamydia heads the list, followed by hospitalized cases of influenza.

Along with a decline in tuberculosis, Kandiyohi County saw an increase last year in the number of children up to date with all their recommended vaccinations by age 2. Just under 70 percent of children met this goal, a better rate than the state average of 68 percent.

Education and prevention efforts by Kandiyohi County Public Health and community providers paid off during a measles outbreak in Minnesota in 2017. By the time it was over, more than 70 cases were confirmed, making it one of the largest outbreaks in recent decades - but no cases of the vaccine-preventable disease were reported in Kandiyohi County.

Related Topics: HEALTHKANDIYOHI COUNTY
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