Health Department Recognizes World TB Day, Releases New Data on Overall TB Rate for 2015

Tuberculosis is diagnosed disproportionately in foreign-born New Yorkers

Health Department to host education and testing events for most affected communities

March 24, 2016 – In recognition of World TB Day, the Health Department today released data on tuberculosis cases in New York City. The new report indicates the number of TB cases in New York City decreased from 585 cases in 2014 to 577 cases in 2015, with a rate of 7.1 per 100,000. For the first time since 1992, there was an increase in TB among U.S. born individuals (from 87 in 2014 to 104 in 2015). TB continues to disproportionately affect foreign-born New Yorkers, with 82% of all TB patients born outside the United States. China was the most common country of birth among persons with TB in 2015, exceeding the number born in the U.S. (131 vs. 104, respectively). In response, the City continues to partner with local organizations to target the most at-risk populations and affected communities. This comprehensive approach includes community health fairs, a mobile testing van, and utilizing new technology to educate, monitor, and treat patients. On World TB Day, the Health Department released an annual summary of 2015 data and an accompanying slide set.

“While we’re encouraged by the decline in TB cases, we are concerned that the disease continues to disproportionally affect certain foreign-born populations in New York City and that the number of cases among U.S. born New Yorkers is rising,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “If we don’t take targeted action, these disparities in health may remain constant, or even widen. I encourage health care providers to ‘think TB’ and test and treat people who are at risk.”

“The Bureau of TB Control has reported an historic low number of cases, including an all-time low in multidrug resistant TB.  Nevertheless, we are concerned because we have seen an increase in US born cases,” said Assistant Commissioner Dr. Joseph Burzynski, Bureau of Tuberculosis Control.

“This report illustrates how TB continues to affect our communities, particularly foreign-born New Yorkers,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, chair of the Health Committee. "If we’re serious about addressing this problem, it will take culturally-competent, community based outreach. As a City that embraces diversity, it’s crucial that we extend the best possible health services to our immigrant communities. I thank the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for arming us with this information, so that we can take the steps necessary to beat this disease.”

According to the 2015 data, Queens continued to have the highest burden of TB in 2015 with 38 percent of the city’s cases, at a rate of 9.4 per 100,000. The neighborhood with the highest rate of TB is Sunset Park in Brooklyn, with a rate of 18.2 per 100,000, which is more than two times the citywide rate (7.1 per 100,000).

The Health Department continues to work with health care providers and communities to promote TB screening, as well as to introduce new tools for testing, diagnosis and treatment for TB infection and disease. In 2015, the Health Department expanded its use of smart phones to monitor treatment of TB patients using video-conferencing, allowing for a more convenient and efficient process for observing patients while they ingest their medication. Last year, the agency partnered with community and political organizations in Sunset Park, Brooklyn to plan a coordinated response to an outbreak in the neighborhood. The Department participated in community health fairs, conducted six testing sessions utilizing a mobile van, and implemented an innovative social marketing campaign including geo-targeted, web-based advertisements. 

The Health Department also has four chest centers around the city that perform an array of clinical services at no cost to the patients. Last year, these chest centers treated over half (55%) of the TB cases in New York City. The Health Department also offers expert medical consultation for patients being treated by community providers.

World TB Day Events
To celebrate World TB Day, the Health Department has planned several events in collaboration with community organizations and local political leaders. These events will take place in neighborhoods with a high burden of TB, with a focus in Flushing, Queens and Sunset Park, Brooklyn:

  • On Monday, March 21, the Health Department co-sponsored a medical conference at Columbia University, where local and international experts engaged area healthcare providers on improving services for communities at risk for TB.
  • Today, the Health Department will host a TB workshop from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Queens Library in Flushing. The library currently displays banners from the TB Voices Project, a national touring exhibition sharing the stories of TB survivors in their own voices and raising awareness of the impact of TB. 
  • On April 8, the Health Department is partnering with the YWCA in Flushing to provide education and testing to the individuals attending classes there as well as the broader community. 

About Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. With proper diagnosis and treatment, TB can be prevented and cured. There is a difference between TB infection and active TB disease. TB infection means that TB bacteria are living in the body, but not causing any symptoms. People with TB infection do not feel sick and cannot spread the disease. Symptoms of 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. TB disease is spread from person to person through the air, and usually affects the lungs.

When a person who is sick with TB coughs, sneezes, or sings, they put TB germs in the air. Other people may breathe in the TB germs, and some may become sick. People usually get TB germs in their bodies only when they spend a long time around someone who is sick with TB — for example, if they live or work with someone with TB. Brief contact with people who are sick with TB (such as on trains or buses) 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. An individual should get tested if he or she:

  • has symptoms of TB
  • has spent  a lot of time around someone who has TB (for example, at home, work or school)
  • has travelled to or lived in a country with a lot of TB

The Health Department offers free and confidential treatment for TB at four state-of-the-art TB clinics. Treatment is available regardless of immigration status or ability to pay.

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

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MEDIA CONTACT: (347) 396-4177

Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez, pressoffice@health.nyc.gov