Science and Tech


California sees 'substantial increase' in cases of tuberculosis

The California Department of Public Health said over 200 people die from the disease in the state each year.
Animation of secondary tuberculosis in lungs and close-up view of Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria.
Posted at 7:03 PM, Mar 26, 2024

California is dealing with a “substantial increase” in reported cases of tuberculosis, according to state health officials. 

The California Department of Public Health said the state saw a 15% increase in cases of the bacterial disease last year, from 1,842 cases in 2022 to 2,113 in 2023. It’s a number that officials said hadn’t been reached since before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria that usually attacks the lungs, but can travel through your blood and attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained. 

It’s spread through the air, such as when an actively infected person coughs or sneezes. It does not spread through actions like touching an infected person or sharing food or drink with them. The CDC said some of the symptoms include chest pain, a cough that has lasted for weeks, weakness or fatigue, chills and fever. 

Not everyone infected with the bacteria becomes sick, however. The CDC said there are cases in which an infection can be treated before it progresses to tuberculosis disease. 

In some cases, tuberculosis can be fatal. California health officials said 50% of patients diagnosed with the infection are hospitalized, and the number that are succumbing to the disease is increasing. 

More than 200 citizens in the state die from tuberculosis each year, which translates to a tuberculosis-related death every other day, according to the California Department of Public Health. 

California health officials said health care providers should consider tuberculosis as a possibility when diagnosing a patient suffering from a respiratory illness, particularly ones with risk factors such as traveling from a country with a high rate of tuberculosis cases or someone experiencing homelessness. 

The CDC said reported cases of tuberculosis in the United States increased for the second year in a row in 2022, but remained lower than levels reported before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Google AI tool could potentially be used to diagnose a person's cough
Young woman coughing with her hand to her throat area.

Google AI tool could potentially be used to diagnose a person's cough

The technology system called Health Acoustic Representations (HeAR) was trained on millions of audio clips of human sounds from the YouTube database.