A significant increase in tuberculosis (TB) cases in New York City (NYC) raises concerns about the potential resurgence of this highly contagious airborne disease in the United States.
So far this year, initial data shows there have been approximately 500 new TB cases officially diagnosed in the city alone – the highest number of cases recorded in over a decade for this time of year. The figure also represents a 20 percent increase in cases compared to last year, which indicates a potential spread to other parts of the country.
Factors behind the surge
Health officials attribute the increase in TB cases to a combination of factors, including the influx of more than 100,000 migrants from countries where the prevalence of TB cases is high, as well as the ongoing impact of the Wuhan coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
With more people avoiding clinics and treatments, the continuing pandemic fatigue has led people to be less vigilant about following public health measures, including basic essential health and safety guidelines.
The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which operates as a public health authority and as a provider of healthcare through Health Department clinics, is understaffed and struggling to respond to new cases.
The city Health Department’s Bureau of Tuberculosis has grappled with years of budget cuts and widespread vacancies. Exacerbating the situation is the closure of the department’s chest center in Washington Heights – one of four city-run clinics that offer no-cost testing and care for TB and the only such location in Manhattan.
The Washington Heights clinic was repurposed to help with COVID-19 response and is being considered for renovations. “Its re-opening depends on the viability of upgrading the facility,” said City Health Department spokesperson Patrick Gallahue.
Migrants are at an increased risk of developing TB since the airborne infection can spread quickly, especially in the kinds of congregated settings where the city is housing them. (Related: BIOWEAPONIZED CHILDREN: Tuberculosis-infected illegal alien children deliberately released across 44 states by the Biden regime.)
According to the TB bureau’s employees, who wish to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly, the city’s preliminary 2023 data has surpassed expectations. They also cited “worrying long waits for treatment at city-run TB clinics.”
“This is definitely a more dramatic resurgence than we would have probably expected – with internal figures suggesting the city is on the pace to exceed last year’s 536 newly diagnosed TB patients or at a rate of 6.1 cases per 100,000 people,” said Elizabeth Lovinger, a health policy director at Treatment Action Group, a public health advocacy group that focuses on TB.
This year’s number of cases could be the highest in NYC since 2013 if the current rate continues. “When there are particularly high spikes in TB and other infectious diseases in New York City, that tends to be kind of a bellwether for the rest of the country,” Lovinger added.
How to prevent TB
TB is an air-borne, contagious infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and is spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) is an infection that occurs when M. tuberculosis attacks your lungs and may spread to other organs and can become lethal in many cases. (Related: Health experts warn untreatable tuberculosis threatens world.)