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San Diego County Joins Binational Effort To Prevent, Control Tuberculosis

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Photo credit: HHSA

Tuberculosis Cases In San Diego County Source: HHSA

How The Body Reacts To Tuberculosis

With thousands of people traveling between the U.S. and Mexico everyday, health officials in San Diego County, Imperial County and the state of Baja California have agreed to a binational approach in preventing and controlling tuberculosis cases.

The tuberculosis rate in Baja California is higher than in all 31 states in Mexico, according to the Pan American Health Organization. Imperial County's tuberculosis rate also tops all 58 California counties.

Alana Ortez, program manager for the International Community Foundation, said the agreement is important because of the diseases that face the border region.

“Border regions tend to have higher rates of many infectious diseases,” Ortez said. “We find a lot of people in the San Diego-Tijuana region are engaging in higher risk behaviors. All those high-risk activities can lead to a higher risk of diseases.”

As part of the memorandum signed last Friday, health workers will collaborate to ensure that binational tuberculosis patients receive treatment, lend each other technical support and enhance investigations of possible exposure. The memorandum was signed by the counties of San Diego and Imperial, the state of Baja California and nonprofits International Community Foundation and Puentes de Esperanza Contra Tuberculosis, A.C.

Kathleen Moser, director of the San Diego County Health and Human Service Agency, told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday that the agreement will allow the different regions to communicate and investigate together when a person is diagnosed with tuberculosis. It will also allow Baja California to utilize the laboratory structure that San Diego County has.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that most often attacks the lungs. If not treated properly it can be fatal. Tuberculosis was once the leading cause of death in the United States.

The number of tuberculosis cases in San Diego County has declined over the past 20 years.

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