Photo: Tuberculosis most common among New York City's Chinese and Ecuadoran communites
In New York, tuberculosis cases have hit an all-time low. However, it is still a major health issue in the city’s Ecuadoran and Chinese communities.
The problem, health officials say, is that immigrants are still carrying the lung disease over from their homelands and bringing it to the U.S.
At the height of the tuberculosis epidemic in 1992, 70 percent of NYC’s cases were born in the U.S., while today, 80 percent of the cases are of those born elsewhere.
Doctors suspect that the disease remains dormant in immigrants until they come to the U.S. And although a TB test is required for those looking to permanently immigrant, not all come to the country legally, which means they likely are not tested.
Adding to the problem is the fact that TB often goes undiagnosed, as most with the disease are undocumented, poor, and fear being apprehended by authorities.
Complicating things once more, is the issue of sufferers being misdiagnosed even when they do go to a hospital. Many doctors believe the disease is obsolete, and claim bronchitis or pneumonia as the culprit. It is not until a patient coughs up blood or complains of chest pain that a doctor realizes it’s tuberculosis.
Director of tuberculosis control for the city Health Department, Chrispin Kambill said, “We’ve been really good at stopping the local transmission of tuberculosis, but our challenge is to identify new cases quickly.”
Last year, 711 people were diagnosed with TB, which is the lowest number in the city’s history. Among them, 15 percent were Chinese, 6 percent were Ecuadoran, 6 percent were Dominican, 5 percent were Mexican, and 4 percent were Bangladeshi.