DPH to end routine TB tests

Published 12:03 am Friday, May 27, 2011

Locals needing routine tuberculosis skin tests will have until June 1 to get them at the county health department.

The Alabama Department of Public health announced earlier this week it would no longer offer routine TB skin tests, which are often needed for employment in fields such as the health care industry and for college admission.

TB skin testing will still be offered, but only to people who are exposed to someone with the disease, health officials said.

Those needing the test for any other reason will be referred to local doctors.

Locally, employees in health care related jobs are required to have the procedure administered.

Employees or potential employees at Andalusia Regional Hospital will still be able to receive their testing, said Candie Northey.

“Testing is provided to our employees at no charge because it is a job requirement,” she said.

Northey said ARH is a low-risk facility, meaning contact with tuberculosis is not expected.

“Based on this, we could stop our annual testing but feel in the hospital setting it is necessary for patient, staff and community safety,” she said. “Covington County has historically seen low rates of TB with only two new cases diagnosed in 2009 and zero in 2010. However, we want to always be prepared.”

At Andalusia Manor and Savannah Terrace, employees receive annual TB skin tests in house, said Sal.Lee Sasser-Williams, director of operations.

“We do it in house with our LPN staff developer,” she said.

While staff members at the facilities are covered, the residents are not, she said.

“We used to use take them to the doctor’s offices when they did testing,” Sasser-Williams said. “Now, the sponsors take them to get the routine testing as part of their physical to the health department. We’re in a pickle, because it’s a requirement for them to live here.”

Sasser-Williams said she has emailed the assisted living association to see what the next steps are to ensure her residents’ receive their annual testing.

While the local K-12 schools do not require students to have a routine TB skin test on file, some college students must be tested.

Health care students at LBWCC are required to have an annual test conducted.

Four-year institutions such as Troy University require all students to have a test as part of admissions procedures.

ADPH officials estimate eliminating non-clinical TB skin tests statewide will result in a $400,000 savings annually.

Tuberculosis is a contagious disease caused by a bacterium that typically attacks the lungs, though it can attack any part of the body such as the kidneys, spine or brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease has the potential to be deadly, if not treated properly. It an airborne disease that is put into the air when a person with active TB speaks, coughs and sneezes.