In 2017, reported cases of deadly tuberculosis rose by an unexpected 10 percent in New York City. According to the city’s health department, it was the biggest increase since 1992. While tuberculosis is usually associated with the lungs, it can also infect and invade the brain, bones, kidneys, spine, and other organs. The contagious disease, if left untreated, can be deadly. In 2017, the 

While there were 556 cases reported in 2016, that number jumped to 613 in 2017, according to the Health Department. Tuberculosis reached a peak of 3,811 in 1992. No explanation was offered by health authorities in a notice to medical professionals on Monday. 

At high risk for tuberculosis are HIV-positive people, patients with compromised immune systems, and substance abusers. The alert from the Health Department urges medical professional to test at-risk patients for TB. Chest x-rays can detect those patients who test positive for TB. A TB skin test can also alert medical professionals to those who test positive.

Currently, according to New York health authorities, the TB rate in the city is 7.5 per 100,000 persons, which is more than twice the provisional 2017 national rate of 2.8 per 100,000 persons. Also, 63 percent of TB cases occurred among men and boys.

Significantly, tuberculosis affects immigrants disproportionately: they account for 86 percent of all cases in New York City. Many of the affected immigrants come from China, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, India, and Mexico. The borough of Queens, where according to the U.S. Census Bureau 47.5 percent of the population is foreign-born, had the highest TB incidence in 2017: 10.6 per 100,000.

However, the New York City neighborhoods with the highest rates of incidence were Sunset Park, Brooklyn (23.2 per 100,000 persons), Flushing, Queens (16.2 per 100,000 persons), and western Queens (19.2 per 100,000 persons). 

Health officials advise that patients should be tested for TB if they spent time with someone who has TB, traveled to other countries, or have medical conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV. 

A lawsuit filed in a Manhattan federal court brought home the risk posed to the public. Chelsy Camacho is suing city’s Department of Education. In a February filing, Camacho claimed that school officials failed to protect her pre-K toddler from tuberculosis, who attended Alfred E. Smith PS 1 in 2017. 

Camacho claims in the suit that school officials “breached their duty of care” by letting her child  “come in contact with others who had tuberculosis” at the Manhattan school. The suit claims that school authorities “knew, or should have known, that tuberculosis was present in the school.” In March 2017, the child was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The child is under five years of age. In 2016, city health officials ascertained that there were 565 confirmed cases of TB. In 23 of those cases (4 percent), the patients were of people under age 17.

In 2015, more than a dozen Chinese immigrants from the Sunset Park, Brooklyn, area were diagnosed with TB. Health officials claimed that the situation was under control.

In 2015, a woman who traveled to India returned to the Chicago area with a rare and dealy form of tuberculosis. Impervious to most TB drugs, the extremely drug-resistant form of the disease only appears in three to four cases each year in the United States, on average. Illinois health officials were working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to locate anyone with whom the woman may have had prolonged direct contact, in close quarters.

The woman traveled from India to the U.S. in April 2015 and landed at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. After visiting Illinois,  Missouri,  andTennessee, she was admitted to an isolation ward at a suburban Chicago hospital. However, she was later transported to a National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where in June 2015 she was in reportedly stable condition. 



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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