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Global TB Testing May Explain Drop in US Cases

March 22, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Chest Radiology
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The number of tuberculosis cases in the US showed an 11% drop last year, which was the largest decrease in the 50 years since such statistics have been kept, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as reported in an article from CTV.ca. One possible reason for the diminished totals may be due to the Centers’ requirement of more extensive TB screening in other countries around the world.

The CDC, in 2007, made changes to the treatment and screening protocol of potential immigrants. They required more testing, in their native countries, for those who showed signs of TB, and they sought six months or more of treatment for actual TB patients and insured that they were infection free before immigrating. More changes included the screening of people under the age of 15 who had not yet been tested.

Actual US numbers last year recorded 11,540 cases, as opposed to 12,904 in 2008, or 3.8 cases in 100,000 people, as opposed to 4.2 for 2008. Sixty percent of the patients were legal and illegal immigrants from Vietnam, India, Mexico and the Philippines.

Though numbers of TB patients have been decreasing annually, and significantly since the 1800s when one out of every seven died from it, they have only done so at about 4% a year. Because of the recent larger ratio, record keepers have looked at other possible scenarios, such as under-diagnosis and fewer treatments overall, and have rejected them. They considered the latest budget cuts in local health departments, which might have indicated a determining factor, for instance, but that would have made sense only if case numbers had gone up.

“This is provisional data and still needs to be scrutinized,” said Michael Leonard, MD, an infectious diseases specialist from Emory University. Still, “more aggressive measures to identify and stop the spread of TB may be paying off,” Carla Winston, PhD, CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the report, said.

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