Tuberculosis cases have hit a record low in the U.S. after health officials announced that enhanced screening of immigrants has helped diminish incidence of the contagious lung condition. Although hitting an all-time low is not news for the United States, since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established such a premiere last year, the road to elimination now seems feasible. However, while cases in the U.S. decrease, the worldwide number increases, which also means that the amount of people infected with TB could fluctuate.
Data from the National TB Surveillance of the Centers for Disease Control reached the conclusion that tuberculosis cases have hit a record low in the U.S. since the health institute has been tracking the disease, which means that fewer than 9.600 people were infected in the United States in 2013. Comparing the current all-time low with the one reached by the U.S. in 2012, namely under 10,000 cases could mean that the condition might be on the road to elimination. Philip C. Hopewell, spokesman for the American Lung Association stated that the decline of the tuberculosis cases is “impressive,” which determined him to say that eradicating this condition is “certainly a feasible goal,” even if the aim will probably be reached no sooner than 20 years from now.
Doctor Phil LoBue, acting director of the division of tuberculosis extermination of the CDC is not so hopeful when it comes to eradicating this disease, stating that “we still have a long way to go to reach elimination.” He also added that exterminating the condition would require having even less than one case per one million people and, judging from the current decrease rate, reaching this level would take over 100 years.
Critical Cases Persist
The tuberculosis cases have just hit a record low in the U.S. thanks to the tight screening which help experts diagnose twice as many cases among refugees and immigrants before their arrival in the United States. The program is also cost-effective, because the CDC concluded that $15 million are saved in annual health care costs.
However, the problem remains with the cases of drug-resistant type of TB, which are very expensive. According to Suzanne Marks, CDC epidemiologist, treatment requires expensive medication and “hospitalization for about 75 percent of patients.” The cost for the critical cases in which people resist to normal treatment against tuberculosis is generally $134,000, but it can go as high as $430,000, depending on the gravity of the case, while treating the drug-susceptible type only costs $17,000.
LoBue stated that approximately one to two percent of all cases have drug resistance, but since “diseases know no boundaries,” the worldwide TB epidemic could pose a serious threat to the United States. According to the World Health Organization, at global level there were 8.6 million new cases reported in 2012 and approximately one million deaths. On average, researchers concluded that Hispanics and blacks have a rate of TB seven times higher than whites and, for Asians, the rate is 26 times higher. Although tuberculosis cases have hit a record low in the U.S., about half of the new cases are among immigrants from high-risk regions.
By Gabriela Motroc