Polk County Health and Human Services and Blue Ridge Health offering limited routine TB skin test screenings due to nationwide shortage of PPD

Polk County Health and Human Services and Blue Ridge Health will be offering limited routine tuberculosis, or TB, skin test screenings due to a nationwide shortage of purified protein derivative, or PPD.

PPD is part of the TB test that many employers, schools and universities and nursing facilities require as part of the on-boarding or annual screening processes for employees and students.

Polk County’s Division of Public Health and Blue Ridge Health are encouraging those seeking a routine test to contact the offices by calling (828) 894-8271 or (828) 894-2222 so that the agencies can follow up with individuals once the shortage is over.

In the interim, those who will need a test for employment at school can turn to the Polk County Health Dept. and Blue Ridge Health where staff there will use a screening questionnaire to assess a patient’s risk. If testing is not needed based on the screening questionnaire, a letter stating that the patient is low risk for TB will be provided and the patient will be deferred until the shortage has been resolved.

Any patient who still desires a test for TB will be referred for an interferon-gamma release assay blood test. This test is reliable but has a higher cost and may not be recommended for those have had prior PPD tests.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is a disease caused by bacteria that can damage the lungs or other parts of the body like the spine, lymph nodes or kidneys. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal. TB is spread through the air from one person to another when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings.

Most people who become infected with TB do not get sick. This condition is known as latent TB infection, or LTBI. People with LTBI cannot infect other people. However, without proper antibiotic treatment, the infection can progress to active TB disease.

A person with active TB disease may be infectious to others and must receive treatment for the condition. By law, physicians must report TB cases to the local health department. Both LTBI and TB disease require medical attention. In North Carolina, treatment of both conditions is provided free of charge through local health departments.