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New York: The New Front in the Battle Against TB

May 23, 2002

A decade after a TB epidemic gripped New York City, raging through Harlem at a rate unseen since the early 1900's, the disease has taken another turn. While overall numbers have declined, TB is now most prevalent in the immigrant neighborhoods of Queens, where it poses a growing public health threat.

Immigrants from the countries most ravaged by the disease -- including China, Ecuador, Haiti, India, Mexico, Bangladesh and Pakistan -- have settled in increasing numbers in Corona over the last decade. The city's Department of Health runs one of the busiest TB clinics in the country there, treating 10,000 patients last year. The rate of TB in Corona was the highest in the city in 2001 -- 36.1 cases per 100,000 people, more than double the citywide average of 15.7 cases, and at least seven times the national average. For the first time, the incidence of TB in Corona surpassed the rate in Central Harlem, for decades the epicenter of TB in the city. TB was largely brought under control in New York City after the epidemic peaked in 1992, when it was fueled by AIDS and homelessness.

"It's a dramatic change in the disease," said Sonal Munsiff, assistant commissioner for the Tuberculosis Control Program at the city's Department of Health. She added, "We are no longer in crisis-mode, but in certain places, case rates are many, many times more than they should be." In 1992, only 18 percent new TB cases were among foreign-born New Yorkers, according to the department. In 2001, 64 percent of the 1,261 new TB cases were among immigrants. Queens is now the front line of New York City's battle, which commands an annual budget of $37.5 million.

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Excerpted from:
New York Times
05.20.02; Sarah Kershaw

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