Upstate part of Northeast Georgia TB investigation

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(WSPA) – A contact investigation into a strain of tuberculosis in northeast Georgia that’s resistant to several drugs has extended to South Carolina.

According to Georgia health officials, two people with confirmed multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in Northeast Georgia are family members and are currently in home isolation.

Dr. Bill Kelly, an epidemiologist at Greenville Health Systems, says four or five drugs are generally used to treat the disease.

“To call it multi-drug resistant, they need to be resistant to at least two or three of those (drugs),” Dr. Kelly explained.

The first case of multi-drug resistant TB was diagnosed when the patient went to the hospital in mid-December.

Georgia health officials told 7 News on Thursday that an investigation was launched into several individuals in the Upstate who may have had contact with the disease.

As of Thursday afternoon, health officials said a third individual was being evaluated.

“If we have to do a contact investigation (to find) anyone that could be at risk, we identify and do the proper screenings and prevention medicine if it is warranted,” explained Alison Ward, a tuberculosis coordinator at District 2 Public Health in Georgia.

Georgia health officials notified hospitals in Hart, Franklin and Stephens counties to watch for anyone who may come in with symptoms.

“In the Upstate it’s quite rare. We’ve seen very little multi drug resistant TB in the Upstate,” Kelly said.

Tuberculosis is a “disease caused by bacteria that are spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys, or the spine,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Sometimes drug-resistant TB occurs when bacteria become resistant to the drugs used to treat TB. This means that the drug can no longer kill the TB bacteria.”

DPH officials said the following are signs and symptoms that multi-drug resistant TB can include:

  • Prolonged cough
  • Coughing up blood or blood-stained mucus
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Malaise

For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/tb/default.htm.