Health Department Recognizes World Tuberculosis Day, Releases New Data on TB Rates for 2016

New diagnoses decreased from 577 in 2015 to 565 in 2016

Tuberculosis continues to disproportionately affect foreign-born New Yorkers

March 24, 2017 — In recognition of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, the Health Department today released an annual summary of 2016 data on TB in New York City. The new report (PDF) indicates the number of people diagnosed with TB in New York City decreased from 577 in 2015 to 565 in 2016, which corresponds to a rate of 6.9 cases per 100,000 people. TB continues to disproportionately affect foreign-born New Yorkers, with 85 percent of TB patients born outside of the United States. The most common countries of origin were China, Mexico, Philippines and Bangladesh. Of the five New York City boroughs, Queens continued to have the highest number of TB cases with 43 percent of the total. Sunset Park, Brooklyn had the highest rate among all neighborhoods, with 20.2 patients per 100,000 — more than double the citywide rate.

“Although we have made tremendous progress in treating and preventing TB in recent years, we still have more work to do to address the TB burden in foreign-born New Yorkers,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We cannot do this without ensuring access to rapid TB diagnosis and treatment for all New Yorkers. Accessible, patient-centered TB care is a human right and the key to addressing health inequities.”

To provide care for all communities affected by TB, the Health Department has four Chest Centers around the city that perform an array of clinical services at no cost to the patients and offers expert medical consultation for patients being treated by community providers. Last year, these Chest Centers treated over half (54 percent) of the people diagnosed with TB in New York City. The City also continues to partner with local organizations to target populations at-risk using a comprehensive approach that includes community health fairs, a mobile testing van, geo-targeted advertisements, and new technology to educate, monitor, and treat patients. In 2016, the Health Department expanded its use of technology to monitor treatment of TB patients using video conferencing, allowing health care workers an efficient and convenient way to observe patients taking their medication.

“New York City has demonstrated significant declines in TB incidence over the past 25 years, with an 85 percent overall decline in TB burden between 1992 and 2016,” said Assistant Commissioner Dr. Joseph Burzynski, Bureau of Tuberculosis Control. “We must continue to leverage new and innovative approaches and strengthen collaborations with community partners to further efforts towards TB elimination.”

“While the number of new tuberculosis cases in New York City continues to decline, the Health Department’s data show that far too many New Yorkers continue to be afflicted, particularly foreign-born New Yorkers. We can make even more progress by ensuring that more New Yorkers have access to rapid diagnosis and treatment for TB,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried of Manhattan, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health.

"While I am pleased that overall city TB rates are down, we still have work to do in Sunset Park where rates remain high. I'm working with city officials to test more people and to educate them about the need to avoid risks,” said Assembly Member Felix W. Ortiz.

“Each person with suspected or confirmed TB presents with a different situation,” said Dr. Caralee Caplan-Shaw, co-director of the Bellevue Chest Clinic and Assistant Professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Bellevue Hospital/NYU School of Medicine. “When community providers and the Health Department collaborate to provide the best care for every patient, we move one step closer to the goal of TB elimination."

World TB Day Events

In observance of World TB Day, the Health Department has planned several events in collaboration with community organizations and local leaders:

  • On Saturday, March 25, the Office of Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz and the Health Department will co-sponsor a Community Health Fair at Sunset Park Recreation Center. Sunset Park is the neighborhood with the highest burden of TB in New York City. The fair will offer free and confidential TB testing. Other free services available include rapid HIV testing, blood pressure screening, health insurance enrollment, Zumba and Pilates, consultations with a dentist and podiatrist and giveaways.
  • On Monday, March 27, the Health Department will co-sponsor a medical conference at NYU Langone Medical Center, where local and international experts will engage with area health care providers on improving services for communities at risk for TB. The conference is jointly provided by the Global Tuberculosis Institute at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York University School of Medicine, and the Center for Continuing & Outreach Education at Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences.
  • The Health Department will be issuing a City Health Information newsletter for health care providers on the diagnosis and treatment of latent TB infection, a condition in which a person is infected but does not have symptoms of the disease. The newsletter will inform providers on short course treatments and the availability of “video directly observed therapy,” a technique which allows health care workers to monitor patients taking medication through video.

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. Symptoms of active TB disease 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, that expose other to respiratory secretions, 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 give a person 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 a good idea for people at high risk for TB to get tested. People who are at risk include individuals who have traveled to or lived in a country with high rates of TB or who have spent time around someone with active TB disease.

The Health Department offers confidential treatment for TB at four state-of-the-art TB clinics at no cost to the patient. Treatment is available regardless of immigration status, insurance status or ability to pay.

For more information, call 311 or search “TB” at www.nyc.gov.

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