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Tuberculosis: Disproportionate Impact on Immigrants

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Tuberculosis: Disproportionate Impact on Immigrants

November 09, 2009

Thanks to a broad, aggressive eradication campaign, tuberculosis (TB) is a relatively minor issue in the United States; but it is a growing problem among the nation's immigrants, who come from countries where the respiratory disease is endemic. In 2008, nearly 12,900 tuberculosis cases were reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The TB rate declined 3.8% from 2007 to 4.2 cases per 100,000 population, the lowest rate recorded since national reporting began in 1953. Immigrants and racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected. In 2007, the TB rate in immigrants was almost 10 times higher than in people born in the U.S.

TB rates among Hispanics, blacks, and Asians were 7.4, 8.3, and 22.9 times higher than among non-Hispanic whites. County public health departments have primarily responsibility for reporting TB cases to the CDC and supervising treatment. Worldwide, the disease remains a major health problem, causing an estimated 1.7 million deaths and 9.2 million new cases in 2006. Among people afflicted with HIV/AIDS, TB is the largest single cause of death.

Although overall rates of TB in the United States are declining slightly, stubborn, emerging multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains of TB threaten to return the disease to prominence here and in other affluent, Western countries. Check out our essay on covering TB in your community for more tips and resources. Updated March 2010

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