The Pima County Health Department will suspend routine tuberculosis screenings at its clinics beginning April 15.
A national shortage of Tubersol solution, the liquid used to test for tuberculosis, prompted the change.
The Pima County Health Department noticed the shortage in December, but didn’t realize the scale, said Brad McKinney, the program manager for tuberculosis services at the department.
Temporarily stopping the screenings was part of the guidelines set by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
“We began talking with the Arizona Department of Health Services in March when we became aware that this was a national issue rather than something we were just struggling with locally,” McKinney said.
Pima County Health officials said stopping the screenings will ensure there are enough doses to test people at greater risk of contracting the disease. That includes those who are in contact with TB or come from areas with high rates of infection.
More than 400 people visited the Pima County Health Department for routine tests in March, McKinney said. The county has a “decent” supply in stock and enough tests for another month, he said.
“The info we’ve gotten from a national level is that we should see stocks arriving by the end of May, but again we are going to be very conservative and make sure we have enough to last us longer than that,” McKinney said.
While the county is suspending routine tuberculosis screenings, the tests are still available elsewhere, McKinney said.
“There are a number of other providers in community. If we were the only game in town, we wouldn’t have done it,” McKinney said.
TB skin test costs up to $40 at private clinics. The test normally costs $15 at the health department.
Mariana Dale is a University of Arizona intern for Arizona Public Media.