Minnesota Struggling with Largest Outbreak of Tuberculosis in the Nation
Department of Health officials say the strain is drug-resistant, which is not only making it harder to fight, it's much more expensive. KMSP Fox 9's Iris Perez reports from Ramsey County
RAMSEY COUNTY, Minn. — It’s the largest outbreak of tuberculosis in the nation and it’s happening in Minnesota.
Department of Health officials say the strain is drug-resistant, which is not only making it harder to fight, it’s much more expensive.
“We’ve put a lot of resources into responding to this situation,” said Kris Ehresmann, who is the Director of Infectious Diseases with the Department of Health.
Every single year, Minnesota sees about 160 cases of tuberculosis.
“TB is a treatable condition,” Ehresmann said. “It can be treated with antibiotics.”
The disease is difficult to catch and spreads with repeated exposure when someone with infected lungs talks, sneezes, coughs or sings.
But the Department of Health now warns of a tuberculosis outbreak.
They say this particular strain is stubborn and that so far, 17 people in Ramsey County have been diagnosed.
“Fourteen are in the Hmong and of those 14, 10 people are kind of connected because of senior activities and their involvement with a senior center,” Ehresmann said.
Already, six people have died and three of those deaths are blamed on a multi-drug resistant strain.
“When you have multi-drug resistant disease, what that means is the organism that’s causing the TB is now resistant to at least two of the usual drugs that are used,” Ehresmann explained. “It’s not that you can’t treat it, but it’s going to take second-line drugs.”
Those drugs are harsher because they come with more side effects and treating this specific tuberculosis strain requires more time and money.
“The cost to treat a normal case of tuberculosis is $17,000,” Ehresmann said. “The cost to treat a case of multi-drug resistant disease is $134,000.”
That’s a $117,000 difference.
“We have a large Hmong community in Minnesota so I think it’s really important that they’re aware of the situation and attentive and monitoring what’s going on with elders,” Ehresmann said.