12/13/23 Health Advisory: Test for tuberculosis people who were incarcerated

TB skin test

A large outbreak of tuberculosis (TB) in the state prison system may affect more than 800 people who were incarcerated.

Requested actions

Ask patients about risk factors for TB exposure:

  • Lived or worked in a correctional facility.
  • Lived in a homeless shelter.
  • Born or lived in a country where TB is common.

Test people with risk factors unless they have a known history of TB infection or TB disease.

Evaluate people who test positive to rule out active TB disease.

If you rule out active TB disease, start treatment for latent TB infection, if clinically appropriate.

Report suspected or confirmed TB cases.

If you diagnose or suspect active TB disease, call the the reporting line: 360-778-6150.

Test with tuberculin skin testing (TST) or interferon gamma release assays (IGRA).

Patients who test positive should receive a clinical evaluation and chest X-ray to rule out active TB disease.

Background

Washington State Department of Health (DOH), Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), and local health jurisdictions are addressing a large TB outbreak within the state prison system. Since July 2021, DOH and DOC identified 28 people with active TB disease. During the investigation, DOH and DOC identified over 2,900 potentially exposed contacts.

More than 800 people left prison before DOH and DOC identified their exposure. Many have not been notified or tested. We are asking healthcare providers to help ensure all people who were incarcerated get TB testing.

Questions?

Check out our Tuberculosis Information for Providers page.

Contact Whatcom County Health and Community Services at 360-778-6100

  • Contacting The Health Department.
    • 360-778-6100 Main Call Line – available M-F 8:30am to 4:30pm.
      • Afterhours Answering Service – available after 4:30pm and weekends, call 360-778-6100 and press 2 to be connected to the on-call manager or health officer.
    • 360-778-6150 Communicable Disease Report Line – 24 hours a day 7 days a week
    • 360-778-6103 Confidential Communicable Disease Fax – 24 hours a day 7 days a week
    • 509 Girard Street, Bellingham WA 98225