TB on the Decline in NYC, Health Officials Say

Tuberculosis is on Decline in NYC, Health Officials Launch Outreach

HEALTH– In recognition of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, the Health Department released 2018 data on TB in New York City. Last year, there were 559 people diagnosed with TB, an 8 percent decline from the previous year. 

TB continues to disproportionately affect some populations, including people born outside of the U.S. and people living in high-poverty neighborhoods. 

According to the data, 84 percent of TB cases were among people born outside of the U.S. There were also notable increases in the number of cases among some groups. Children under 18 years had a 28 percent increase in TB diagnoses (from 18 cases in 2017 to 23 in 2018), and adults over 65 had a 12 percent increase in diagnoses (from 146 cases in 2017 to 164 in 2018).  

The NYC Health Department offers free, confidential TB testing, treatment, and care at four TB Chest Centers located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. Services are available evenings and weekends and regardless of immigration or insurance status. 

Last year, the clinics saw over 7,800 patients for TB-related services. In addition, the Health Department provides TB services in the community, including home-based testing for people who may have been exposed to TB and health care professionals trained to monitor TB patients to ensure they take their medication. 

To reduce TB diagnoses among high-risk populations, the Health Department is developing a public health campaign aimed at providers to promote testing and treatment of latent TB infection (LTBI), an early, non-infectious stage of TB. The Health Department also closely collaborates with community partners and health care providers to develop culturally relevant education and TB testing for communities that experience a high burden of TB.

“Following the rise in tuberculosis cases that we saw in 2017, we are pleased to see our case count decline. This success is a credit to the Health Department’s TB prevention and control efforts,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “West Queens and Sunset Park, Brooklyn continue to see high rates of TB diagnoses. If you have a cough lasting more than three weeks or have spent time around someone with TB, ask your health care provider for a TB test. Persons testing positive for active TB can get free treatment at one the Health Department’s Chest Centers.”

Tuberculosis cases and rates, New York City, 1983-2018.

Additional Data Highlights

  • 66 percent of all TB patients were born in one of five countries: China, the United States, Ecuador, Mexico and India.
  • Of the five New York City boroughs, Queens continued to have the highest number of TB cases, accounting for 37 percent of all new cases in 2018.
  • Sunset Park, Brooklyn had the highest rate among all neighborhoods at 17.9 per 100,000 – more than two times higher than the citywide rate.
  • The number of cases among patients born in the U.S. increased 11 percent (from 81 in 2017 to 90 in 2018).
  • Twelve patients diagnosed in 2018 had a multidrug-resistant TB strain.

“As TB continues to disproportionately affect people born outside the United States, it is important that residents have the confidence to get tested and treatment,” said Council Member Peter Koo. “These services are available regardless of status, coverage or medical history, and I thank the Health Department for working with our immigrant communities to help promote prevention and treatment.”

“The reduction in TB cases shows that working together, we can change the course of TB in New York City,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Disease Control. “I want to thank the Mayor, Health Committee Chair Levine, the City Council, and our community partners for their commitment to our TB program.”

“New York City is the greatest city in the country, but still has one of the largest TB burdens nationwide. Despite recent laudable progress, TB’s decline is still too slow. TB continues to disproportionately affect New Yorkers of color, poor New Yorkers, and those born outside of the U.S., and increases in some of the most vulnerable groups–children, and people over 65– are worrisome,” said Mark Harrington, Executive Director, Treatment Action Group. “A concerted prevention effort that uses the latest scientific developments, and engages communities, can change this. New York has been a leader on ending HIV and Hepatitis C, it’s time for us to also commit to ending their deadly co-infection, TB.”

About Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. With proper diagnosis and treatment, TB can be prevented and cured. 

There are two stages of TB: latent TB infection and active TB disease. Latent TB infection means that TB bacteria are living in the body, but not causing any symptoms. People with latent TB infection do not feel sick and cannot spread the disease. 

Active TB disease causes symptoms, which may include weight loss, a persistent cough lasting longer than three weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood or phlegm, loss of appetite, chills, fever or night sweats.

When a person who is sick with active TB disease coughs, sneezes, or engages in other activities, like singing, they put TB germs in the air. 

People usually get TB germs in their bodies only when they spend a long time around someone who is sick with TB. Brief contact (such as on trains or buses) with people who are sick with TB is unlikely to spread TB. TB is not spread by shaking hands, sharing food, or through sexual activity.

Most people do not know they have TB until they become sick. That is why it is critical for people at high risk for TB to get tested. 

People who are at risk include individuals who were born, traveled, or lived in a country with high rates of TB; have spent time around someone with active TB disease; or have medical conditions that weaken the immune system. 

People who have latent TB infection can be treated to prevent developing the active disease. People with active TB disease can be treated and cured through a combination of antibiotics.

For more information, call 311 or visit nyc.gov and search “TB”.

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