More Spending on TB Urged

Tuberculosis (TB) cases in New York City last year grew by 10 percent to 613, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene revealed in its annual summary from the Bureau of Tuberculosis Control, a reversal of the downward trend of the past 15 years. While TB cases were identified in almost every neighborhood of the city last year and the disease cuts across races, nationalities, ages and income levels, the largest number of cases, 116, were reported among Chinese-born immigrants. The next largest countries of origin were the U.S. (83); Mexico (42); India (38) and Ecuador (36). Foreign-born individuals accounted for 86 percent of the cases in New York City.

The neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Western Queens and Flushing have the highest TB rates at 23.2 per 100,000, 19.1 and 16.2, respectively. The citywide rate is 7.5 per 100,000. The Health Department further noted that the number of people diagnosed with multidrug-resistant TB –which is resistant to two of the most important antibiotics and more expensive to treat – also increased last year.

A group of New York-based community organizations, including the Hispanic Health Network, the African Services Committee, Housing Works and the New York Immigration Coalition, called on city, state and federal officials last week to ramp up spending on TB treatment.

“Budget cuts reduce community groups’ ability to provide the free services necessary to find TB early and prevent it from spreading or developing,” said African Services Committee Director of Advocacy Amanda Lugg. “Members of the immigrant community are suffering unnecessarily from this preventable, curable disease.” Immigrants from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea accounted for 26 cases last year.

The 10 percent increase in cases from 2016 to 2017 follows years of progressively reduced funding from the city, state, and federal levels, the groups say. The Health Department states that while the administration has maintained funding for TB control efforts, over the last decade the city’s TB budget has been halved, including a 65 percent reduction in federal funds. The community organizations “are asking for a restoration of funding for New York City’s TB response to $14.89 million at the city level, $7.83 million at the state level, and $10.9 million at the federal level.

“We have the tools we need to end TB as a public health threat in New York City – what’s missing is funding and political will to do so,” noted Erica Lessem, deputy executive director – TB of the Treatment Action Group. “That TB is on the rise in our city in this state and country, with their wealth of resources, is inexcusable.”

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