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New TB test requirements aim to speed clearance

The state Health Department says new tuberculosis skin testing requirements will go into effect, beginning March 19, involving a detailed questionnaire, to begin with, instead of an injection.

Previously, a TB skin test involved an injection administered by a healthcare professional that required a follow-up exam to “read” the injected area within 48 to 72 hours. Now, when individuals visit their healthcare provider for a routine TB screening, they will be asked to complete a new standardized and detailed TB risk assessment questionnaire — a process that only takes a few minutes.

The new requirements follow the recommendations of the majority of healthcare organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to the Health Department, which will begin instituting the new procedures on March 19.

“The screening procedures we established 12 years ago have been updated with better, proven procedures to more accurately determine someone’s risk of exposure to TB,” said Elizabeth MacNeill, TB Control Branch chief in a news release. “This allows us to make better use of health resources and reduce unnecessary X-rays for those who have no risk. It also allows us to focus on providing treatment for those who would really benefit from treatment.”

McNeill said more information will be asked, including symptoms of TB disease and health risks, such as a weakened immune system, which place that person at higher risk of getting TB, as well as whether the individual has traveled abroad for four weeks or more to locations known for their prevalence of TB.

Based on an individual’s responses, he or she may be able to get a TB clearance letter the same day without taking a skin test. The new rule does not apply to those working in the healthcare field.

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