UNDATED -- The COVID-19 pandemic has Minnesota health officials concerned about another respiratory disease that may be flying under the radar.

Sarah Gordon is the Minnesota Department of Health's State Tuberculosis Controller. She says while TB is still rare, there are active cases currently in Minnesota.

TB is an airborne bacterial infection that can be fatal if not treated. It is one of the oldest infections in the world. TB can appear anywhere in the body but typically manifests itself in the lungs.

Gordon says as the pandemic set in, the World Health Organization saw an 18% drop in the number of reported TB cases in 2020 compared to 2019...

What we've seen are just regular people who've become ill, they're in the pandemic, and they've delayed going in to figure out what was going on. I don't know if they were afraid to interact with the health care system during the pandemic, lack of access in some areas of the country due to the pandemic, or just people thinking maybe they had COVID.

Gordon says if you have personal risk factors, a persistent cough, and have tested negative for COVID go get tested for TB. She says TB is often misdiagnosed as pneumonia because many health care providers have never seen cases of TB.

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Some risk factors include HIV, diabetes, aging, smoking, exposure, if you're from an endemic country or if you are immunocompromised. People who travel frequently to developing countries are also at risk.

Minnesota sees an average of 150-170 cases of TB per year. Gordon says there have been eight Minnesota deaths from TB so far in 2021.


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