HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Department of Health will begin implementing its new tuberculosis, or TB, procedures on March 19, following the recommendations of several health organizations.
The new test includes a questionnaire that assesses TB risk in just a few minutes. The survey includes questions about recent travel, a patient's immune system and other factors that can help determine the likeliness that they have TB.
"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 Dr. 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."
Previously, a TB test involved an injection by a healthcare professional and a follow-up examination to read the results of the injection in a 48- to 72- hour period.
With the new testing method, a physician can determine a patient's risk level for TB based on their answers to the questionnaire. The physician may then decide to write a letter clearing the patient of TB without actually administering the test.
"It also allows us to focus on providing treatment for those who would really benefit from treatment," MacNeill said.
Patients will now also have the option of choosing between the traditional TB skin or blood test. However, the blood test is currently not approved for anyone under five years-old.
The Department of Health will continue to provide TB tests for free at designated locations throughout the state.
The new rule does not apply to healthcare employees, who are still required to get annual TB screenings.