2021 CDC U.S. TB Elimination Champions
Collaborating with public health partners, health care providers, and community organizations
Breathe Easy South Texas (B.E.S.T.) is a collaboration of governmental and private agencies specifically dedicated to performing targeted testing and treatment of latent TB infection. Not only are B.E.S.T partners continuing their direct care services to their TB patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also putting their TB skills to use by assisting with early contact tracing and interviewing of patients with COVID-19.
Using his knowledge of contact investigation and targeted testing, TB Elimination Champion Gerald Barnett has coordinated COVID-19 activities for five major shelters in the area. Working with a talented staff and local partners, he has been instrumental in COVID-19 contact tracing, testing, isolation and quarantine activities in the local shelters while continuing his work in TB.
Dr. Otto Boneta is a TB program and TB patient advocate. Dr. Boneta’s innovative activities have helped the Texas Department of State Health Services continue their work to end TB during the COVID-19 pandemic. This TB Elimination Champion spearheaded a study to provide Clofazimine to Texas out patients with rifampin/multidrug resistance and authorized the use of video directly observed therapy. As a result, the team has been able to treat patients with MDR TB, while reducing COVID-19 exposure and travel time for staff and patients.
The California Tuberculosis Control Branch (TBCB) continues to lead TB prevention and control throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have also leveraged their TB control skills in California’s COVID-19 response, supporting training, surveillance, modeling, contact investigation, clinical, and public health guidance. TBCB’s contributions have strengthened California’s public health infrastructure.
While navigating the challenges of access to TB care during community quarantine restrictions in Guam, Chima Mbakwem helped introduce different forms of telehealth, video directly observed therapy, and audio calls between patients and providers. With the help of this TB Elimination Champion, Guam’s Department of Public Health and Social Services continues to provide uninterrupted TB services and scalable, patient-centered care and TB education to the community.
Local, state and territorial mycobacteriology public health laboratorians (PHL) in the United States have worked tirelessly over the past twelve months to both assist with accessioning, specimen processing and testing of patient COVID-19 samples while also maintaining critical tuberculosis testing services such as isolation, identification, and drug susceptibility testing. The day-to-day work mycobacteriology PHL undertake each day sometimes goes unnoticed. This critical work impacts healthcare providers, tuberculosis programs, and each and every patient who has a mycobacteriology test ordered. Mycobacteriology PHL serve as subject matter experts and this essential testing knowledge aids patient diagnosis of and treatment for tuberculosis.
TB Elimination Champion, Harris County Public Health Tuberculosis Elimination Program, incorporated a signs and symptoms screening tool in response to COVID-19. They provide masks and gloves to patients and make use of their video directly observed therapy app to remind TB patients of their upcoming appointments.
Housing for Health, a program under the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, has collaborated with the Los Angeles County Tuberculosis Control Program to help TB patients who are experiencing homelessness connect to recuperative care and/or stabilized housing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Provisioning interim housing for TB patients experiencing homelessness has assisted with patient compliance and adherence to TB medication. Affirmative patient outcomes empower individuals and facilitate positive relations in communities with hard-to-reach populations.
Not only has the Jefferson County Department of Health TB Program continued their TB work by providing directly observed therapy, TB screenings, and treatment for latent TB infection during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also apply their TB control skills to COVID-19 contact tracing, case investigation, testing, and vaccination. Their work allows them to be able to control TB in their community while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michele Koenig, RN, is a passionate TB Elimination Champion. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she is putting her contact tracing skills to use in developing and implementing training for COVID-19 Disease Investigators while building rapport with staff and students at the University of Florida. She provides education on isolation, quarantining, infection control, and testing and is active in their vaccination program.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tenzin Kunor, an MDR TB survivor and an inaugural member of We are TB, launched a new resource, We are TB’s Support Space, to support TB patients and survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic. This forum provides a safe space for those currently undergoing treatment for latent TB infection or TB disease, as well as TB survivors. This resource has helped build community during the uncertainty presented by COVID-19.
TB Elimination Champion, Dr. Michael Lauzardo has been instrumental in COVID-19 screening, testing, and vaccination among vulnerable communities. Drawing on his TB research and public health expertise, he is leading the University of Florida’s “Screen, Test & Protect” program. This program has allowed for a timely and effective response to COVID-19.
Dr. Scott Lindquist’s dedication to TB diagnosis and treatment has never been more evident as during the COVID-19 pandemic. He continues to routinely consult on TB cases and has taken on additional TB clinical responsibilities for multiple local jurisdictions, while aiding with the COVID-19 response. This TB Elimination Champion remains calm and approachable as he puts community nurses and physicians at ease during TB ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) sessions and takes the time to provide thoughtful individualized consultation to ensure both positive patient outcomes and stronger relationships among the TB community.
In order to ensure continuity of TB care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NYC TB program expanded its telehealth pilot program for latent TB infection patients. This expansion helped to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure and has resulted in a significant increase in enrolled patients and completed telehealth visits throughout the pandemic.
The San Diego County Tuberculosis Elimination Initiative is a coordinated effort to build a TB elimination framework that serves the County’s diverse population, engaging multi-sector stakeholders and communities impacted by TB. Throughout the pandemic, stakeholders have collaborated to address latent TB infection screening, testing, treatment, and surveillance, expanding telehealth, and leveraging synergies with COVID-19 and influenza vaccination sites.
Public health TB nurses provide care for patients in difficult and unknown circumstances. During the COVID-19 pandemic, TB nurses use their case management skills to provide essential care and other related services for patients with COVID-19 and care for those with TB disease. Nominators from the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association’s National TB Nurse Coalition wish to recognize ALL nurses that contributed to the TB response during COVID-19.
TB PEN has continued assisting state and local TB programs with strengthening their evaluation capacity and using data to enhance the effectiveness of TB prevention and control during the COVID-19 pandemic. The PEN Steering Committee hosted several Open Forum Calls and facilitated audience discussions in response to the challenges experienced by TB programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Texas Department of State Health Services Region 4/5 North Tuberculosis Elimination Team has worked to not only control and eliminate TB, but to also address COVID-19 in their community. Focusing on their collaborative mission while addressing both TB and COVID-19, they have continued to provide essential care for their patients. Although unable to host their annual World TB day conference, they have worked to ensure medical providers in their area remain mindful of the importance of testing for and treating TB.