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Tuberculosis Rates Rise In Some U.S. States

Following 20 years of good progress, the rate of tuberculosis reduction in the U.S. has slowed down. This is indicated in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Tuberculosis Surveillance System. More worryingly, in some states the rates increased.

The current figures show tuberculosis incidence rates at 1.2 new cases per 100,000 people between 2013 to 2015. Levels remain highest in those born in other countries, at 15.1 new cases per 100,000 (although this is a slight decline from 15.6 cases).

In addition to the overall ‘stabilization’, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia each had more cases in 2015 compared with 2014.

The CDC, while acknowledging the general flattening out of cases, is keen for the decline in cases to resume. Much of the focus here will be on improved methods of detection. One area of focus is those entering the U.S. on temporary visas, for here rates are showing an increase.

Thousands of temporary visa holders come to the U.S. each year to work in tourist locations like amusement parks, ski lodges, national parks, and cultural or historical sites. Tuberculosis testing is currently not required for persons entering the U.S. on a temporary visa. Many people with tuberculosis do not show any symptoms (what is known as latent tuberculosis). Tuberculosis is spread through the air when people who have active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze.

With migrant labor, the Washington Post reports that Asians accounting for the most cases (3,007) and the highest rate (28.2 cases per 100,000 persons).

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease usually caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease primarily affects the lungs, although other parts of the body can also become infected.

Some interesting facts about tuberculosis are:

  • One third of the world’s population is infected with TB.
  • In 2014, 9.6 million people around the world became sick with TB disease. There were 1.5 million TB-related deaths worldwide.
  • TB is a leading killer of people who are HIV infected.

Tuberculosis is an illness once again of growing international concern.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.