On the Reportability of Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Disease to Public Health Authorities

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Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are environmental pathogens that are an increasingly common cause of pulmonary and extrapulmonary disease. Electronic laboratory-based reporting is a straightforward mechanism for identifying NTM infections and for monitoring trends in disease. Oregon was the first state to make NTM reportable, although at this time the reporting requirement is limited to extrapulmonary infection. This has assisted authorities in detecting outbreaks and healthcare-related infections. However, further consideration should be given to the reportability of pulmonary NTM disease. Pulmonary NTM disease is more common than tuberculosis in the United States and is of emerging public health concern. Although the direct public health action that would be triggered by a pulmonary NTM disease report is not clear, without surveillance, public health is missing an opportunity to better understand pulmonary NTM disease trends and reasons for its increasing recognition within our population. We believe state health authorities should conduct surveillance for pulmonary NTM, either by mandating reporting of laboratory isolates or by other mechanisms as we have done in Oregon.

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