March 26, 2009

NYC reports record low tuberculosis cases

New York health officials said the number of tuberculosis cases in the city has dropped 2 percent to 895 reported cases last year from 914 in 2007.

Dr. Chrispin Kambili, the health department's assistant commissioner for TB control, said reported TB cases in 2008 indicate a 78 percent decrease from the high levels seen in the early 1990s, when the city faced a TB epidemic.

Immigrants make up 36 percent of the city population and TB disproportionately affects non-U.S.-born residents, Kambili said. In 2008, immigrants accounted for 76 percent of the city's TB cases and almost half of the patients were people born in China, Mexico, Ecuador, Dominican Republic or Haiti -- countries where TB rates remain high.

Tuberculosis is a winnable battle, Kambili said in a statement. We continue to make progress in New York City, even as the disease remains epidemic elsewhere, but we have more work to do. Tuberculosis is preventable and curable, so New Yorkers at risk should not be afraid to get tested. Screening and treatment in the health department chest centers are free and no one will ever be asked about immigration status.

TB remains a devastating problem in much of the developing world, affecting an estimated 9 million people each year and killing more than 1.5 million annually worldwide, the World Lung Foundation.