Health Department Releases New Tuberculosis Data Showing 10 Percent Increase in Cases in 2017

86 percent of New York City tuberculosis patients were born outside the United States

Sunset Park, Western Queens and Flushing have the highest tuberculosis rates among all New York City neighborhoods

March 26, 2018 — In recognition of World Tuberculosis Day, the agency today released a new report on tuberculosis (TB) cases in New York City in 2017. The new report indicates that TB cases have increased 10 percent from the previous year, with 613 cases in 2017, up from 556 in 2016. The number of people diagnosed with multidrug-resistant TB – TB disease that is resistant to two of the most important antibiotics and is harder and more expensive to treat – also increased. TB continues to disproportionally affect people born outside of the United States; this population accounts for 86 percent of New York City TB patients. The most common countries of origin were China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, India and Mexico. Queens remained the borough with the highest rate of TB (10.6 per 100,000 people). The citywide rate is 7.5 per 100,000 people. Sunset Park (Brooklyn), Western Queens and Flushing (Queens) had the highest rates among all neighborhoods. See the 2017 TB Report (PDF).

“Tuberculosis is a deadly, yet curable disease. The Health Department is the leading provider of tuberculosis care in New York City, and we are concerned about these new data that show TB rates have increased among New Yorkers,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We’re committed to ensuring equitable access to rapid and quality diagnosis and treatment for all New Yorkers.”

While the current City administration has maintained funding for TB control efforts, over the last decade, New York City’s TB budget has been halved, including a staggering 65 percent reduction in federal funds. These funding cuts have resulted in reduced clinical services, decreased public health activities, and significantly reduced staffing.

Despite financial challenges, the Health Department has maintained services in four tuberculosis clinics that provide confidential TB testing, treatment, and care services at no cost to patients, regardless of their immigration or insurance status. In 2017, these clinics treated over half (54 percent) of the people diagnosed with TB. The agency also partners with community and elected officials in high TB burden neighborhoods to conduct TB education and testing, including five mobile van testing events in 2017.

“New York City has been a leader in TB control, and we need to address this increase in cases,” said Dr. Joseph Burzynski, Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department’s Bureau of TB Control. “It will require a coordinated public health response, coupled with the city’s robust health care infrastructure, to make progress in the effort to eliminate tuberculosis as a threat in New York City.”

“New York City residents should know they can access confidential TB testing, treatment, and care at no cost,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “The City Health Department continues to be a leader in the fight against TB.”

“As we observe World Tuberculosis Day events, New York City faces an increase in people with this disease. Every 20 seconds, someone in the world dies of TB. The health and well-being of our community remains a top priority. The safety of our residents cannot be overemphasized. Testing is always necessary. Through collaboration with the city health department local groups, we will take full preventative measures to maintain a safe and healthy community,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz.

“All New Yorkers should know where these unwise budget cuts to our TB program will lead us,” said Mark Harrington, Executive Director of Treatment Action Group, an organization that advocates for better treatment, prevention, a vaccine, and a cure for HIV, tuberculosis, and Hepatitis C. “Savage cuts to TB programs in the 1980s led to a deadly outbreak of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, hundreds of avoidable deaths, and thousands of unnecessary cases of difficult-to-treat TB. Citizens, activists, public health officials, and political leaders must unite to ensure that New York's TB program is fully funded and can provide the high-quality preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services which will save thousands of lives.”

The Health Department continues to be the leading provider of TB care in New York City. The agency has four Chest Centers around the city that provide confidential TB testing, treatment, and care services at no cost to patients, regardless of their immigration or insurance status. In 2017, these chest centers treated over half (54 percent) of the people diagnosed with TB in New York City. Last year, the agency partnered with community and political organizations in high TB burden neighborhoods to conduct TB education and testing, including five mobile van testing events. The Health Department also offers expert medical consultation for patients being treated by community providers.

World TB Day Events
In recognition of World TB Day on Saturday, March 24, the Health Department planned events in collaboration with community organizations and local leaders:

  • In partnership with Academy for Medical and Public Health Services and the Office of Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, the Health Department hosted a community health screening on Saturday, March 24 at the MetroPlus Office in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The event served as an opportunity to educate the community about TB by offering free and confidential testing. The event also offered free vision, dental, and diabetes screenings, free medication reviews, and health insurance enrollment.

  • In partnership with the Academy for Medical and Public Health Services, on Monday, March 26, the Health Department is co-sponsoring a medical conference at NYU Langone Medical Center, where local and international experts will engage with area health care providers about improving services for communities at risk for TB. The conference is jointly hosted by 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.

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, speaks, sings, or engages in other activities that expose others to respiratory secretions, they put TB germs in the air. People usually get exposed to TB germs when they spend a long time around someone who is sick with TB. Brief contact with people who have TB, such as on subways or buses, is unlikely to give a person the disease. 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 have traveled to or lived in a country with high rates of TB or who have spent a long time around someone with active TB disease.

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

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MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez, (347) 396-4177 PressOffice@health.nyc.gov