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The number of U.S. tuberculosis cases in 2023 was the highest in a decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced. 

The CDC said on its website Thursday that “overall, cases increased from 8,320 in 2022 to 9,615 in 2023, an increase of 1,295 cases” 

“The rate also increased from 2.5 per 100,000 persons in 2022 to 2.9 in 2023,” it added, noting that numbers were up among all age groups. Data from the agency shows nearly 10,000 infections in 2013. 

CDC officials expected TB numbers would rise, but the 2023 count “was a little more than was expected,” Dr. Philip LoBue, director of the agency’s Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, told The Associated Press. 

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The new CDC statistics are not a count of how many people were newly infected in 2023, but rather of how many people developed a cough or other symptoms and were diagnosed. 

An estimated 85% of the people counted in 2023 were infected at least a year or two earlier and had what’s called latent TB, when the bacterium enters the body and hibernates in the lungs or other parts of the body. Experts estimate as many as 13 million Americans have latent TB and are not contagious. 

“Although TB incidence in the United States is among the lowest in the world and most U.S. residents are at minimal risk, TB continues to cause substantial global morbidity and mortality,” the CDC says, calling it “one of the world’s leading infectious disease killers.” 

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Tuberculosis bacteria

The CDC says tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called “Mycobacterium tuberculosis” that usually targets the lungs but can also attack other parts of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain. 

Symptoms of TB disease in the lungs include chest pains and a prolonged cough, sometimes with blood. 

Other symptoms include weakness or fatigue, weight loss, fever and loss of appetite. 

Cases declined sharply at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, but have been rising since. 

Tuberculosis bacteria in microscope

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“This post-pandemic increase in U.S. cases highlights the importance of continuing to engage communities with higher TB rates and their medical providers in TB elimination efforts and strengthening the capacity in public health programs to carry out critical disease control and prevention strategies,” the CDC said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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