Rockland's TB rate rising
By JANE LERNER
THE JOURNAL NEWS
March 6, 2006
The number of people in Rockland who contracted tuberculosis increased last year, and the rate of infection among local residents remains among the highest in the state, health officials say.
Thirty people in Rockland had illnesses diagnosed as the highly infectious disease during 2005, according to a report recently compiled by Dr. Germaine Jacquette, director of tuberculosis services for the Rockland Department of Health. Two of them died.
"Unfortunately, we are not seeing the numbers go down," Jacquette said.
The rate of TB infection in Rockland last year was 10.5 cases per 100,000 residents. That was the highest rate in the state outside of parts of New York City, the state Department of Health said.
One reason is Rockland's large immigrant population, Jacquette said. The county is a popular destination for immigrants, many of whom come from developing nations with limited public health services and therefore high rates of TB.
In fact, all but two of the 30 people found to have the illness in Rockland in 2005 were born outside the United States.
"It's a global issue," said Gail Golden, head of Rockland's Immigration Coalition. "We are living in a global world. People are moving from less developed countries to more developed countries."
TB is an infection caused by the spread of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the microscopic bacteria become airborne — spreading the disease to others who are nearby.
As the infection grows, lesions form in body tissues, most commonly the lungs, but also in the brain, kidney or spine.
The illness thrives among people living in poorly ventilated, crowded conditions.
It is one of the most deadly and common major infectious diseases today, with 9 million new cases, resulting in 2 million deaths, occurring annually, mostly in developing countries.
People who have only casual contact with an infected person are at low risk of contracting the illness.
Because the people most likely to harbor the disease include immigrants and the poor, it is often difficult to identify the local residents most at risk and to persuade them to go to a doctor.
The largest single country of origin for Rockland TB patients in 2005 was Haiti, the Department of Health said.
Ecuador was second, followed by the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, the Philippines, China and Vietnam.
Renold Julien, executive director of Konbit Neg Lakay, an agency in Spring Valley that serves primarily the village's large Haitian immigrant population, said he would be glad to help spread the word about TB to those who might be at high risk.
"No one has ever come to talk to us about TB," he said.
The county Health Department makes a strong effort to reach out to people in immigrant groups — especially groups from nations where TB is common — to encourage them to be tested for TB, Jacquette said.
The county had hoped to obtain a state grant to launch an extensive outreach program. Rockland applied for the grant of $57,000 a year for two years to increase its outreach to community groups serving people from high-risk countries. The goal was to identify people who might be at risk and give them tests to see if they had the disease.
But the county was turned down, Jacquette said.
The state Department of Health provides more than $13.5 million to counties annually to help them identify and treat residents with TB, spokesman Rob Kenny said.
"A mechanism is in place to identify and treat individuals who have TB," Kenny said. "It is a very important public health issue."
Tuberculosis rates are declining in most places in New York, he said, which would make Rockland appear to be an exception.
Jacquette said the Rockland Department of Health was also working to teach doctors at clinics and in private practice to consider TB as a possible diagnosis, especially when they saw patients from high-risk countries.
Many doctors already consider tuberculosis as a possibility when they see patients with such symptoms as unexplained weight loss, chronic cough and night sweats.
"TB is always in the back of our minds," said Dr. Benjamin Chang, a West Nyack pulmonologist. "Especially with recent immigrants."
Whatever happened to screening immigrants at places like Ellis Island? Or is the media talking about illegal aliens ? And if it's the latter, why not tell us their immigration status? So much for the much-vaunted "public's right to know".
Before I could go for my Green Card interview, I had to have a complete physical which included a tuberculin test and a chest X-ray to rule out tuberculosis, in addition to many other tests (HIV, urine drug screen, etc.). The Federal Gov't is now ready to let the floodgates open, damn the consequences.
They let the criminals just come across too, and the slavers, and the drug couriers(with a little help from the mexican military)
They sure talk about the "publics right to know" a LOT more than they practice it.............
Apparently, that's racism.