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Hawaii has a shortage of tuberculosis tests

By Nana Ohkawa
Published On: Apr 11 2013 09:22:00 PM HST

The state is running out of tuberculosis tests. Hawaii, has the second highest yearly rate of the disease, and it is now getting hit by the nationwide shortage.

HONOLULU -

The state is running out of tuberculosis tests. Hawaii, has the second highest yearly rate of the disease, and it is now getting hit by the nationwide shortage.

The Hawaii State Department of Health says manufacturers are not sending enough supply of TB test solution to keep up with the demand. Now, instead of testing 1,000 people per week, the department will only be able to treat 200.

"What that means for most people, particularly students and food handlers, that their requirements for skin testing are temporarily suspended," said Richard Brostrom, Tuberculosis Control Branch Chief.

Therefore, those who normally are required to have the test, will be allowed to go to school or work without it. The DOH says tuberculosis has been a long time problem in Hawaii.

"That's because we sit in a community with lots of immigrants folks from Asia in particular," said Brostrom.

The TB test is crucial to help protect people by actively screening potential carriers for the disease.

"It's not like the flu where the person will get sick right away. They might carry the bug inside their lungs for many many years and eventually might get tuberculosis," said Brostrom.

The DOH insists the suspension will not have a negative impact on public health. TB tests will still be on reserve for certain cases.

"Although we are curtailing some of our skin testing for the lower risk groups. We are still going to maintain testing for the high risk groups," said Brostrom.

And those already being treated and evaluated for TB will not be affected from the suspension. The DOH says some symptoms of TB include coughing, sometimes with blood that lasts at least three weeks, night sweats, fevers and unintentional weight loss. The TB suspension and test shortage may last 120 days.

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